Part memoir, part self-help, Lara Casey tells the story of her 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.
Last month, I read her story in her book, Cultivate What Matters 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 as we cultivate what matters:
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 what matters through 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 AS WE CULTIVATE WHAT MATTERS MOST
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:
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- “Imperfect Courage” by Jessica Honegger
- “The Road Back to You” by Ian Morgan Cron
- “The Year of Less” by Cait Flanders
- “Meditation and Mindfulness” by Andy Puddicombe
You’ve got this!
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