What I Learned About Intentional Living from “Cultivate” by Lara Casey

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.

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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.

I’ve purchased her goal setting Powersheets, more Write the Word Journals, and listened to her podcast.

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."

John 15:1,4-5

LARA’S TIPS ON INTENTIONAL LIVING

Each chapter address a lie that we believe and replaces it with the truth God teaches us:

  1. I have to do it all. I can’t do it all and do it well.
  2. My life needs to look like everyone else’s. I have a life to grow that is as unique as I am.
  3. I have to be perfect. It’s in the imperfect that things grow.
  4. It’s impossible to start fresh or move forward. I can move forward by digging in and breaking up the lies.
  5. I have to know all the details of the path ahead. Forethought is important, but faith is essential.
  6. Waiting is not good or productive. Waiting is a time of ripening.
  7. I will be content when I have it all. I will be content when I live grateful.
  8. Small steps don’t make a difference. Little-by-little progress adds up.
  9. I can do life by myself. I need meaningful relationships.
  10. 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.”

-Lara Casey

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!

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10 Spiritual Goals to Have and How to Work Toward Them

We set goals for our careers, our homes, our health and our finances. Why wouldn’t we then set spiritual goals?

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A WORK IN PROGRESS

As a child I was shy and withdrawn, insecure and anxious. I was a sensitive kid that was afraid of the dark and meeting new people. But I loved to teach my younger brother, read funny books, write stories, make crafts and create neighborhood clubs.

When I grew older, my talents grew, as did my weaknesses. With big changes came bigger challenges. Marrying young and living across the country from my family, death of my mother-in-law, post-partum depression, a chronic illness and an aggressive toddler.

I walked through many days of confusion and exhaustion, until I learned that even doctors have their limits on how much they can help. I learned in each of these areas, that my spiritual growth had to be part of the equation. Learning to trust, leaning to hope, learning to pray.

Even in my talents, came trials.

After I got a job teaching second grade, I thought my biggest worry would be classroom management. It ended up being things like dealing with CPS, a year where 60% of my kids had recently gone through divorce, or two of my kids losing their parents during the time in my class.

Again I had to turn to my Father, the only one who could give me true peace and wisdom in a world where things often don’t make sense.

LEARNING TO LET GO OF CONTROL

Life is so much more complicated as an adult than it was as a child.

Some things can be helped from self-help books or experience. Others can be helped through community, such as a friend reaching out, or a doctor prescribing medicine. But some come at a harder price. Complete surrender. Loss of control in a situation where the only option you have left is to give it to God.

Life is full of twists and turns and lessons we may have never wanted to learn in the way we did. And so, as I train myself to grow in the ways God calls me to, I find myself taking my problems to Him much faster and with much more trust than I have in the past.

GROWING IN FAITH

No matter where you are in this journey, you my friend, need to set some spiritual goals. We set goals for our careers, our health and our finances. Why wouldn’t we then set them for our spirituality–the one thing we claim matters the most in life?

When I need to grow in confidence, I focus on surrender and study. When I need to grow in positivity and hope, I focus on prayer and worship.

Where are you struggling? Set your goals in these areas and look for ways God is growing you spiritually. Don’t see your trials as a roadblock, but as an opportunity.

Ready to get started? Me too!

10 AREAS FOR SPIRITUAL GROWTH

1. CELEBRATION/WORSHIP

“His praise shall be continually in my mouth.” Psalm 34:1

2. CONFESSION/FORGIVENESS

“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins.” 1 John 1:9

  • Repent of a sin and list tangible ways to improve
  • Find a mentor or accountability partner to encourage you
  • Attend counseling to work through forgiveness issues

3. FASTING/SACRIFICE

“She never left the temple but worshipped night and day, fasting and praying.” Luke 2:37

  • Fast from a type of technology (TV, social media, phone)
  • Cut out food indulges (sweets, carbs)
  • Fast from spending money (impulse buys, extra purchases, treats)
  • Take a break from a hobby (use the time in study and prayer)

4. FELLOWSHIP/COMMUNITY

“They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.” Acts 2:42

  • Host a get together with family or friends
  • Join a small group at church
  • Join a women’s Bible study
  • Pray with others

5. GUIDANCE/TRUST

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.” Psalm 25:5

  • Commit to reading your Bible daily
  • Commit to daily prayer
  • Seek out spiritual mentors at your church
  • Fast and pray over a specific decision

6. MEDITATION/STUDY

“Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” Joshua 1:8

7. PRAYER/RELATIONSHIP

“Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” Jeremiah 29:12

  • Pray as a family at the dinner table
  • Pray during an activity (brushing teeth, in traffic)
  • Read a book about prayers
  • Pray with your kids at bedtime
  • Write your prayers in a journal
  • Ask for and keep track of prayer requests

8. SECRECY/SOLITUDE

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them…when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets…do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.” Matthew 6:1-4

  • Give money to a homeless person
  • Buy the meal for the person behind you in the drive thru
  • Participate in Toys for Tots, MAGI boxes, or Angel Tree
  • Go on a personal retreat to read, fast and pray

9. SERVICE/COMPASSION

“Do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.” Galatians 5:13

  • Visit a nursing home (teach something, play music, pass out cards)
  • Bring cookies to a Fire/Police Station
  • Buy/make items for kids in the hospital
  • Bring a meal or help clean a sick person’s home

10. STILLNESS/SURRENDER

“Be still and know that I am God.” Psalm 46:10

  • Wake early to spend quiet time with God
  • Go somewhere to sit still and enjoy nature
  • Let the little things go
  • Have a tech free day and be present with your family

SET ONE SPIRITUAL GOAL RIGHT NOW

Pick ONE area that sticks out to you the most right now. Then write down the action steps you need to get there. Work your way through them. Then move onto the next, building and growing in your spiritual walk. Click the image to print your goal sheet:

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Dig deep on goal setting in your life in this Goal Setting Workbook I created just for you! You can find it in my shop here:

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What I Learned About Courage from “Imperfect Courage” by Jessica Honegger

Written by the creator of Noonday, the world’s largest fair trade jewelry company, “Imperfect Courage” goes through the journey of one woman’s mission to follow what she felt God was leading her to do.

*This post contains affiliate links. Please see my full disclaimer for details.

FROM ADOPTION TO AMBASSADOR

I first heard of Jessica Honegger at a women’s conference my church hosted a few years ago. She spoke about her desire years earlier to adopt a child, but with the staggering adoption fees, and a tanking house-flipping business, she needed a way to raise money to make this possible.

Jessica and her husband had always shared a passion for helping those in poverty when they met through a relief organization. But between raising kids and trying to turn a profit on houses during a recession, any plans of adoption were taking a back seat.

On a trip to visit some friends working for a nonprofit in Uganda, they were introduced to Jalia and Daniel. They were a local artisan couple trying to support their family with handmade goods. While the products were unique and beautiful, there just wasn’t a big enough market in order to make ends meet.

When Jessica received a few signs of her own that she still needed to pursue adoption, she decided to have a sale in her home of her own things to raise money, and reached out to Jalia and Daniel to send the items for her to sell that night to help them out as well.

The items were a hit. 90% were sold in the first hour and she recognized the potential their products had in the U.S. market. She asked others to host their own trunk shows and found ways to send materials and organize shipping so that more items could be sold. Soon the operation was so big that Jalia and Daniel needed help too! They hired employees and expanded the operation.

Not only was Jessica’s dream of international adoption realized, but a company that provided income for hundreds of families in poverty was born as well.

THE NOONDAY COLLECTION

In five years, Noonday became the largest fair-trade jewelry company in the world, also earning Inc. Magazine’s 45th fastest growing business in the U.S.! Today, they have 4,000 Noonday business owners, and 4,500 artisan partners worldwide! The original artisans, Jalia and Daniel, now employ 300 locals and no longer worry about their next meal, living a middle-class lifestyle.

Noonday is the kind of company I love–one that directly benefits the artists and people in need. And Jessica’s story is one that empowers me as a mom, a woman, a Christian and a creative. It proves that together we can do big things. That we can make a difference and make real change in the world!

Jessica encourages us to believe bigger–to fight against our fears and go anyway–to simply go scared. Courage isn’t about having your stuff together, it’s about trusting in God and going anyway.

BUT THAT’S JUST THE INTRO…

The rest of “Imperfect Courage” is about relating her story to yours. To empower you to be brave and courageous. To fight for what you want, what is right and how to get there.

In Part 1, she goes over getting started and taking the first steps on your own. Part 2 is about the importance of community and collaboration. She ends with Part 3 where you broaden your view, your impact, and think beyond yourself and your bubble.

“There is a whole world out there begging for us to use the opportunity we have been given, to create opportunity for others, so that we–all of us–can flourish. So, while comfort may beckon us, choosing courage will always be the route to impact.” -Jessica Honegger

ON A PERSONAL LEVEL…

I remember reading about her internal struggle with needing a nanny and the mommy guilt she had over it. I had my own nanny at the time (because of health issues where I didn’t have the energy to do what I needed to do) and the massive guilt I was struggling with. She went on to talk about how you would think that having a nanny would make you feel so appreciative of the help, but it became a reminder of all the areas she was “failing” as a mom. I couldn’t have related more.

But the truth is, that needing help and asking for it, doesn’t make you a failure, it makes you clever. There is no one size fits all when it comes to parenting, and being a working mom isn’t a sin. I am a stay-at-home mom myself and still couldn’t do it alone! I love the part in the book when she texts a friend about all the guilt she is feeling, and her encouraging, loving friend replies, “Knock off that crazy thinking and go. Your kids will be better, not worse for having a mama who got on planes and flew around the world to serve. Way better than if you’d have never left your house every day of their lives to meet their every first-world need.”

That woman spoke truth into a friend that desperately needed it. And in doing so, I had a reminder that a nanny taking care of my kids so that I could get healthy and be the mom I needed to be for those kids was a good thing, not something to feel guilty about.

Jessica has a gift of wisdom, vision and passion. I hope you are encouraged as much by her as I was in these pages.

BUY THE BOOK!

Want to pick up a copy of “Imperfect Courage” for yourself? Click the image to order:

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Are you struggling with fear and anxiety? I’ve got some more encouragement for you today friend. See what the Bible has to say about it in this printable study and take the first steps toward your own imperfect courage today!

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