Everyone has a story. We could all benefit from sharing our stories with each other.
SHARING YOUR STORY
A few years ago, I stood up to tell a group of women about the depression I went through during the worst of my Lyme disease. Through my story I shared how worship made a difference in changing my focus and became a stepping stone toward healing. I received applause and words of encouragement, yet felt embarrassed and withdrawn afterward.
I imagined words that hadn’t been expressed and worried about other people’s opinions. In trying to encourage, how was it that I felt obnoxious and egotistical?
When a friend reached out to thank me for what I shared, I admitted I felt foolish and had been fighting off panic attacks all afternoon.
She called out the lies in my head and redirected my thoughts to the truth: If I have something good to say about Jesus, God’s voice is not the one telling me to stop.
Her reminder directed me towards the words in the Bible that spoke of how God interacts with his children. If you are struggling with discerning between God’s push toward spiritual growth and Satan’s discouragement, ask yourself: How are the words in my head sounding?
Are they gentle or harsh? Do they come in a whisper or a shout? Do they cause you to act or to retreat? Is the focus on glorifying God or yourself? Do you find yourself looking for more opportunities for growth in life or simply going through the motions?
Everyone has a story. I didn’t realize how true this was until I started sharing mine. And in sharing, I continue to get affirmation and healing for the parts of me that are still wounded.
Sharing encourages those around you to open up and let you in on their lives as well. In becoming more vulnerable, I have learned of friends who have overcome infertility, abortion, abusive relationships, addictions, disease, betrayals, death, loss of faith, depression, and infidelity.
It sounds like a cry fest–it’s not. It’s a support system. It’s a way of spreading hope and encouragement to others. Sharing your story helps people know they’re not alone in their struggles. It teaches them how to deal with hard situations and live with focus and direction. Sharing inspires. And in my case, sharing has given me new friendships, more meaningful relationships and a stronger marriage.
Your story matters. Don’t think that it doesn’t.
How can you share your story with someone who needs it? Don’t be discouraged, friend! Be bold, be joyful and be encouraging! Great things await you!
Create your own retreat using the Psalms with this printable Prayer Walk as you connect to God through nature.
*This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclosure for details.
WHAT IS A PRAYER WALK?
My favorite part of the book of Psalms is that you can easily turn the verses into a personal prayer for yourself. A few years ago I was invited to a women’s retreat for the weekend and part of our activities was a self-guided prayer walk along dirt paths and bridges winding through a beautiful property in Texas. While we started out in small groups, I felt the need to break off to finish up on my own.
I feel most connected to God when I am alone in the quiet, listening for his voice.
Although I haven’t heard anything audible on these walks, I feel a calm and peace come over my spirit, as I breathe in gratitude for the beauty and the opportunity to have a moment to think.
Sometimes it is more of a listening experience. Maybe a journal entry by a creek, or a minute to pause and watch for wildlife in the trees.
PLAN YOUR OWN PRAYER WALK
Nature has a way of speaking to us and bringing us closer to our creator, and I encourage you to plan a moment (or a few) each year where you can get away for even an hour to reflect.
Here are my favorite places to be still and reflect on what God is teaching me:
Walk along the beach in the early morning before the crowds
Hike a simple nature trail in your local community
Go on a bike ride in your neighborhood after dinner or before breakfast
Sit on a porch or balcony on a vacation with a view
Sip on coffee in the backyard and listen to the birds
Turn on nature sounds for an indoor break
It’s not simply about taking a minute to get back into nature–it’s about reconnecting with God. An easy way to do that is to pray and journal the Psalms out in his creation.
MARK THE MEMORY
In the Bible when God did something that the Israelites wanted to remember, they offered a sacrifice, started a tradition or set up stones of remembrance.
On my personal prayer walk, we were asked to collect something along the way, like a rock, and write a word that stuck out to us on our journey. I still have my rock with the word trust written on it sitting in my office. I was going through a especially hard time in my life, and the reminder of the prayers and conversations I had with God that weekend stayed with me throughout that time.
This week I modified the Prayer Walk we used on our women’s retreat into one you can use on your own, anywhere you’d like.
ORDER THE PRAYER WALK PRINTABLE WORKBOOK
My Prayer Walk Workbook is simple to reprint year after year if you want to make it a tradition. You can staple it together or I like these clear protector sheets that make it into a little booklet. You can find them here or at most stores that sell office supplies.
Part memoir, part self-help, this book tells the story of one woman’s journey of growth little by little as she learns to cultivate what matters.
*This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclaimer for details.
CULTIVATE WHAT MATTERS
A few years back I discovered a simple and beautiful journal at a women’s conference called, “Write the Word: Cultivate Joy”.
Each day had a scripture to write, a spot to enter what you’re thankful for, a word of the day and space for journaling. It was part of my inspiration for creating my own monthly scripture series.
I loved the simplicity of these pretty journals and looked into their creator, Lara Casey and stumbled upon her website, www.cultivatewhatmatters.com. Everything she creates is about living your life with intention through setting goals, prioritizing spiritual growth through personal study and recognizing the value of progress over perfection.
Last month, I read her story in her book, Cultivate of how she overcame hardships in her own life, such as her struggling marriage and difficulty getting pregnant.
But what drew me into her story was her passion for gardening and how as she tended to her own physical garden, she was growing one in her own spiritual life. Through her story, you feel as though you’re learning how to be a gardener as well, and I was so inspired that by the time I finished, I cleaned out all my flowerbeds and created a little spot to relax with my freshly planted pots of flowers.
Every time I cleared a section, I felt like I was cultivating room in my life for growth as well. Digging through the dirt, I could re-hear the lessons Lara taught in her book and be reminded of the words of Jesus:
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit."
LARA’S TIPS ON INTENTIONAL LIVING
Each chapter address a lie that we believe and replaces it with the truth God teaches us:
I have to do it all. I can’t do it all and do it well.
My life needs to look like everyone else’s. I have a life to grow that is as unique as I am.
I have to be perfect. It’s in the imperfect that things grow.
It’s impossible to start fresh or move forward. I can move forward by digging in and breaking up the lies.
I have to know all the details of the path ahead. Forethought is important, but faith is essential.
Waiting is not good or productive. Waiting is a time of ripening.
I will be content when I have it all. I will be content when I live grateful.
Small steps don’t make a difference. Little-by-little progress adds up.
I can do life by myself. I need meaningful relationships.
The past isn’t valuable; it’s all about the future. Remembering God’s faithfulness helps us cultivate a meaningful legacy.
CULTIVATING THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
Lara points us back to the need for cultivating the fruit of the spirit in our own lives. She reminds us that pursuit of these virtues: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control aren’t the goal, but rather creating a meaningful relationship with God is. The fruit of the spirit is simply the result.
REMEMBERING THAT EVERYTHING IS A SEASON
I love this seasonal analogy she uses that everything you have experienced has been part of your spriritual growth:
“Maybe this is your season of spring, to start something new—to break ground into fresh soil. Perhaps it’s your season to take a leap of faith or plant roots right where you are, blooming where you are planted.
Maybe this is your season of summer, watering more often and being watered. A time to prune and pull weeds, work hard in the heat, or tend to what matters most to you. A fruitful season of deepening your connections to community.
Maybe you are in a season of fall, ready to do the work of the harvest and count the fruit that has been growing. A season of savoring and gathering.
Maybe you are in a season of winter, waiting for spring and new life to come. You are resting, abiding, reflecting, and clinging to the hope of spring ahead. And maybe this season of waiting is your time of ripening—a season of preparation, getting you ready for something good ahead. Something far better than you expected."
I’m so thankful that I am not currently in a season of winter. Most of us in survival mode are in this season, and the hope of spring is what keeps us going. I feel like I have currently come out of a season of spring and am living in the summer season, enjoying the hard prep work that I’ve done and maintaining my own healthy habits. I may have setbacks, but I am far from the lonely days of “winter”–a time of suffering and hopeful waiting.
Thank goodness for the seasons God gives us. He promises he will never leave us, and that we will be blessed by the growth that comes with inevitable change. Don’t miss what good things this season has for you.
A FEW THOUGHTS ON GOALS
Many of us mess up on our New Year’s Resolutions because we feel the need to be perfect in meeting them. Lara’s book (and philosophy throughout her own shop products) reminds me that the purpose of intentional living is progress, not perfection.
Don’t let your goals hold you back or trip you up, they are made to help you grow, not to be unattainable disappointments! Here’s what she has to say about goal setting:
“We have permission to change our minds and change course if that’s what God says to do. Just because you set a goal at the beginning of the year doesn’t mean you have to take that path forever. Who says goals have to be for a year? Your goals may change halfway through the year—or halfway through the month!
There are good reasons for that: life circumstances shifting, priorities being refined as you discover what really matters, and so forth. If your dreams or plans change, celebrate! Maybe it means God is growing you.
Let’s allow ourselves the freedom and permission to change as we listen to God’s leading, and let’s invite one another to experience that same grace too.”
I wrote an entire post on over planning to the point that I can’t move forward because I don’t have everything mapped out. A few years ago I got the nerve to jump in and just START somewhere. We don’t always have to have our plans set in stone. Be flexible in where you feel God is leading you. I knew God was calling me to lead, write and create, but not sure how all those things would come together.
In the meantime, I created an Etsy shop while I was teaching myself to sew baby toys and items for my son, took an at-home writing course because I thought I wanted to possibly write a book someday, and so much more that strangely has come together over the years.
Take a step out in faith. You don’t have to know the entire plan for it to come together eventually.
GROWING IN GRATITUDE
Along the way, Lara reminds us of the importance of gratitude through hard times. Like myself, she was reminded of this because of hardships, not because of the absence of them. When you’re in a season of hardship, it’s harder to stay grateful if you haven’t already cultivated this practice in the good times.
I can personally attest to this in my own trials. How much easier it would have been if I could have started a gratitude journal earlier in my lyme battle. As a parent/spouse and just someone going through something hard, I have seen the benefit of a mindset of gratitude. Here are a few examples of changing “I have to” to “I get to” from Lara Casey:
*I get to work. I have a job!
*I get to feed babies all night. I have healthy babies and food for them.
*I get to take out the trash. It doesn’t have to live in my backyard. I have a trash can and our wonderful trash collectors come right to our house in their truck to get it once a week.
*I get to work out. I get to move my body today, and enjoy breathing and being alive!
*I get to make dinner. We have food, and I have a family to share it with.
GET YOUR BOOK!
Ready to order a copy of “Cultivate” for yourself? Grab your copy here: