Category: Faith

There is a magic about summer: the smell of blooming flowers in my garden, the taste of watermelon and fresh mint, the sound of kids playing in front yards and jumping through sprinklers, and the thrill of spotting fireflies as the sun goes down. Summer is nostalgic and refreshing because it’s a season of getting out there. It’s a season of connecting and community.

And it can be a season of loneliness.

We see the kids playing together, and we crave the same playful, free, joy-filled connection with our peers.

Are you feeling it?

I am. I feel a longing for new and deeper connections.

fruitful friendship lara caseyPhoto of me and my friend Randi by Amy Nicole.

But, there are some things in the way it seems.

I’m in a season of little “extra” time and full hands. I am craving deeper friendships, but I also relish my time with Ari and the kids. So, what’s a girl to do?

I’ve been praying and thinking a lot about this, and here’s what I believe is the answer (that has me really excited, hopeful, and relieved!):

It’s not about us.

There’s someone out there that needs your friendship, more than you need hers. There’s someone out there who needs your specific story to intersect with hers. It’s not about what we need; it’s about loving others as we have been loved. Fruitful friendship is born from a connection with the Father who makes truly good fruit grow.

nrp-olivia-SWfruitfulsummer-1110My friend Tori and I last summer. Photo by Olivia from Nancy Ray Photography.

Here’s a little truth from my upcoming book, Cultivate, that will shed some light on this for us:

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Good fruit is characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). But here’s the thing we often miss: a life aimed at any one of these virtues will leave you chasing your tail because seeking to obtain the fruit of the Spirit isn’t the goal. Cultivating a meaningful life with God is the goal, and the fruit is the result. In order to live a truly fruitful life, we must seek God above all else. He is the Master Gardener who makes our lives fruitful.

The righteous flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. —Psalm 92:12–13

Think about your life and honestly evaluate how you are spending your time, energy, and focus. Are there areas of your life or activities that you know you need to let God heal, change, or strengthen to become fruitful?

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.

Whoever refreshes others will be refreshed. —Proverbs 11:25

–Pre-order your copy of Cultivate: A Grace-Filled Guide to Growing an Intentional Life (releases June 27!)

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Want to know where to start growing fruitful friendships? Sometimes it’s less about hosting a gathering, and more about digging into what we’re wrestling with below the surface right where we are. Gathering together is important, but there’s a more powerful step that we often miss: connecting to the author of close connection and fruitful friendship–God Himself. Maybe for you, that means praying to ask for His help, forgiving someone who may be hard to forgive, saying we’re sorry, saying thank you, or taking a leap of faith to love someone in ridiculous big bold ways. For me it means, little by little, choosing God over my fruitless ways: forgiveness over bitterness, hope over despair, and imperfect over perfect. It means letting go of the friendship guilt and embracing the season I’m in.

There’s so much freedom to be found in standing on the ground we’ve been given–mess and all. And in letting others stand with us.

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In writing this to you and letting these thoughts sink in deep, I let go of what I thought friendship had to look like. I flipped the script (and you can too). While I can’t get together with friends often, I can go deep with them when I see them, and I can pray like I would want to be prayed for. This season won’t last forever, and I’m grateful for what it’s teaching me:

Skip the fluff.

Love people right where they are, with what you have. No one needs me to be the hero of their story–they just need Him. I can give that to people.

What about you? How are you feeling about your friendships? Are you in a season of transition or restlessness too? I’d love to hear from you, right where you are.

View More: http://ginazeidler.pass.us/pursuit31film

Join us this week for the third-annual Fruitful Summer series to learn how to embrace awkward and get out there to make meaningful connections. This five-day series is packed with free downloads and tips that just might surprise you! Sign up here and get the NEW Fruitful Friendships Workbook here.

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With my small business and three littles running under the same roof, my “quiet time” each day is pretty loud! I prayed one morning for God to give me a deep and simple way to connect with Him, right in the thick of it, and the Write the Word journal was born.

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The Write the Word journal is unique. Each day, you’ll get a selection of key verses to write out, along with space to write your thoughts, prayers, or anything else God places on your heart. These journals were created with the big picture of God’s story in mind, helping to point you to places in the Bible that will help you to know His heart in direct and deeper ways.

My hope is that you dig into the larger context of each scripture as you Write the Word, reading the surrounding verses and chapters. We chose each selection of scripture to point you to the big picture, not to make you feel good for a moment. God’s Word is rich, and it will transform you. That’s why I LOVE these journals–you get directly into the Word.

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We sold out of the previous Write the Word journals in December, and have been working on this new collection for almost two years! Remember back when I mentioned some exciting new products we really wanted to release, but intentionally decided at the time to grow slow? I was talking about this collection, and I’m so grateful we chose to wait till this very week to share them. The wait has been worth it!

Our FIVE NEW EDITIONS (!!!) were created as a collection to walk you through foundations of faith and various seasons of life, right where you are.

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Write the Word // Cultivate Faith contains a selection of scripture that is fundamental to faith, making this volume a perfect gift for someone who is new to their faith or looking to cultivate a fresh or renewed faith. If you are doing the journals in order, start here!

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Write the Word // Cultivate Joy is filled with scriptures specifically selected to help you delight in the goodness of God. Perhaps you’re in a season of craving fresh joy. This volume is full of scriptures to help you celebrate the joy that’s yours in your faith.

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Write the Word // Cultivate Gratitude is filled with scriptures specifically selected to help you grow in contentment through God’s promises and assurances to us. Full of scripture on thankfulness, this volume will help you get after grateful.

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Write the Word // Cultivate Hope is filled with scriptures specifically selected to help you find God’s peace and assurance in seasons of waiting, challenge, or unknown.

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Write the Word // Cultivate Renewal is filled with scriptures specifically selected for those who need a reminder of God’s promise to make all things new. Get still and reflect on His life-giving truth with this volume.

write the word inside liners 2017Look at those inside liners! : ) : ) : ) 

How to Write the Word:

Have fun! Color outside the lines with these special journals. Bedazzle them, use your Cultivate What Matters stickers in them (I love doing this!), paint in them, make a mess—whatever helps you dig in and fall in love with the Word. The paper is thick and wonderful!

Do these pages however you like: in order or in your own order, daily, weekly, or however works best for you.

Use a great Bible translation like the NIV (New International Version) or ESV (English Standard Version). I love using a physical Bible, but I often use the digital translations on the YouVersion Bible app and BibleGateway.com, too.

Very important to cultivating true faith: read the verses surrounding each selection of scripture to gather context and meaning.

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Get creative with the “Today is…” section on each page! You can write, Today is April 12th, Today is AWESOME, Today is sunny, or Today is the day I get to see my best friend! That space is yours to play with.

You’ll also see a place to write what you’re grateful for. Today, I am grateful for YOU. Thank you for taking this Write the Word journey with me.

And new to these volumes is a special space to write a focal word for the day. I love this section so much! It helps me to hold onto a focal truth for the day.

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We designed these to be used as a full collection to take you through each season. Order your All Seasons Collection HERE and get 10% off with the full collection (no code needed)!

SHOP THE ENTIRE SPRING FAITH COLLECTION HERE

I am excited to see how God reveals His heart to us as we write, memorize, and celebrate His life-giving Word together!

P.S. Join me for a free Cultivate Your Faith live webinar with Illustrated Faith founder, Shanna Noel!

 

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For a long time I thought, “Maybe I’m not good enough or reading my Bible enough, or mature enough as a Christian. Maybe I’ve been too bad. Maybe I’ve messed up too much. Maybe God just isn’t listening.” I felt like I didn’t get it and I never would.

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Then God showed me that faith is not about my ability to perform. I don’t have to be perfect to have it. I don’t have to have grown up in church (I didn’t), or have done all the right things (didn’t do that either), or have quiet time every day (mine is pretty loud!).

The “Good News” is really good. We don’t deserve His grace and He gives it to us freely.

– Maybe you have no idea where to even begin with faith, and it all feels overwhelming.
– Maybe you’ve been at this faith thing for years, but you feel like something is missing.
– Or maybe things are great, and you just want to keep the momentum going.

IMG_9287Bible journaling beautifulness from my friend and coworker Amber!

Wherever you are, join me for a live broadcast about cultivating fresh faith with Illustrated Faith founder, Shanna Noel. Join us (invite your friends, small group, and co-workers too!) on April 12th at 12 pm EST for a FREE Cultivating Faith Webinar. Shanna and I will be talking about cultivating faith, Bible journaling, how writing the Word can transform your faith, and how to dig into the Bible in fresh ways. I’ll also be revealing the NEW collection of Write the Word journals live on camera with you. I can’t wait for you to see all five (!!!) of them! If you’re clicking over to the post after the live broadcast or can’t make it at noon, register and you’ll be able to catch the free replay here too when we’re done!

P.S. Want to win one of the first full sets of the new Write the Word journals? Simply register for the webinar and leave a comment here telling me your favorite Bible verse or story. I’ll leave my answer in the comments too. And I’ll announce the winner during the live broadcast on Wednesday. HOORAY!!!

P.P.S. I’d love to hear your thoughts here.

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We’re about to get some snow here in North Carolina, but my winter garden is ready for it. These pansies and violas are hardier than you think!

img_7960After seeing how hardy pansies and violas are around here (colorful blooms often popping through the snow), I decided to do something fun for the winter—a whole garden of them!

Cold weather means it’s garden dreaming time around here. Time to break out the seed catalogs, and a big piece of paper and crayons with Gracie, and imagine the possibilities. I’m so excited! I’m working on writing a Gardening 101 guide (especially for those who perhaps like me haven’t always had a green thumb!), and will be sharing our garden progress over @graciesgarden. Have you tried gardening? Interested in starting one? I’d love to hear!

img_7959My mom came in November (planting day was unseasonably warm!) to help us plant the winter garden. It was a ton of work, but I haven’t touched them since. Zero maintenance! : ) 

Here’s some Goal Gardening 101 for you. In order to grow something, the first steps are:

1. Pick good seeds. (Uncover your good goals here.)

2. Prepare your soil. (Break through the way you’ve always done things to get started on your goals.)

3. Get your hands dirty! That’s what we’re going to do together today with our goals! Ready?

Goals don’t happen just by thinking about them. You must make some decisions, get uncomfortable, and take action. But, there’s no need for perfect progress. What I’ve learned in the last six years of studying goal setting (and from being a personal trainer years ago) is that good things grow through imperfect progress. If you are reading this and already feel guilty for not having checked everything off your list so far this year, I have some encouragement for you: it’s okay. It’s not too late. You haven’t messed everything up. You are not behind. Little steps forward (with even a few steps backward along the way) add up!

img_6074Garden treasures from October – zinnias and cosmos.

I uncovered four goals for 2017, and I’m going to lay each one out for you along with my starting steps and some extra tips! If you read my Goal Setting Series, you’ll see I updated some of my goals with new steps and ideas. Good things grow over time, and with each step forward you take, the next steps become clearer.

Here is Goal 1 of 4!

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Goal 1: Read the whole Bible again. I did this once before, over the course of a year and a half. I didn’t use a fancy reading plan, I just looked at the number of pages in each book of the Bible, and divided them over the course of a year. I put the names of each book I was supposed to read during each particular week on my iCal calendar, and that’s how I stayed on track. It took me longer than I thought, but it was worth it! Every bit of my reading was worth it.

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Why? I want to grow my faith by going straight to the source—getting to know more about God Himself. I want to know more of the big picture of His story. I want my mind to be filled with light and truth, so I can live it.

The positive effect taking action on this goal may have on my life and others: When I am filled with truth, I am also filled with PEACE. I don’t worry as much or feel fear about my circumstances. This helps everyone around me (my family, team, friends) to feel steadfast calm too. I’ll know more of God’s wisdom to be able to walk in the light. As my faith grows, I’ll be able to share the fruit of my faith with my children and others. There are endless positive effects this goal could have!

How I will feel at the end of this year having made progress on this goal: Lord willing, peaceful, more assured, and more mature in my faith.

Starting steps:  1. Open the Bible and look at the lengths of each book again. 2. Open my iCal and plot out what I could realistically read each week. —UPDATE: I got an email from a blog reader, and I took her suggestion—I chose the Blue Letter Bible Chronological reading plan. I signed up for it using the YouVersion Bible App. I’m still adding it to my iCal for more accountability though! I made a whole new iCal calendar for my goals, and this has been so helpful! See below…

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3. Pray about having the diligence to complete my reading each week, not for the sake of completing it, but to grow closer to God. —DONE! 4. Use my monthly Tending List in my PowerSheets to track my progress and keep my goal in view at all times (I keep my Tending List out on my desk.).

How I will know I accomplished or made progress on this goal: I will, Lord willing, see the fruit of this goal in my life, and in turn in the lives of others.

Encouraging words: Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path. – Psalm 119:105 ESV

How I will celebrate at the end of 2017: I may not finish this by the end of this calendar year, but I will celebrate my progress by (UPDATED!) painting what I learned on a big canvas, and hanging it in our bedroom. I am excited thinking about painting the bigger picture and things that God taught me as I read! Whether I finish this by December 31st or not, I put this on my calendar to start on December 16th : ). Next step, get the canvas from Michaels with a 50% off coupon (which they almost-always have online!).

HOW I’M MAKING PROGRESS SO FAR: 1. If you’ve been following my Instagram stories, you know that I’ve been listening to the audio version of the reading plan using the YouVersion Bible app on my phone. (I love the ESV and NLT translation audio.) This has been a little tricky with three kids to watch in the mornings, but if I don’t finish listening in the mornings, I listen in the car on the way to pick up Grace from preschool, or I listen later at my desk. I’ve also considered using a physical Bible to highlight what I’m learning in a more concrete way, but I’m keeping this simple for now. I can easily access the Bible on my phone. 2. Thanks to another blog reader, I joined this Facebook group that has helpful commentary on the Chronological reading plan. 3. I made a hashtag to share and stay accountable in my journey! #2017TheYearOfLight

I’d love to hear: are you reading through the Bible this year? How are you feeling about it? What plan are you following? Are you using a physical Bible, or digital? I can’t wait to hear your thoughts!

My second goal for 2017–run, and finally get back into weight training–is up next!

P.S. Want to start fresh with your faith, or grow deeper roots? I wrote this free Cultivating Faith Guide for you!

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Our marriage felt impossible to repair, so I tried fixing everything else. I would wake each morning thinking, What can I do, eat, or buy that will make me feel happy today?

– In the quest for a more organized life, I bought new pretty containers, planners, and pens.
– I loaded my shelves with books promising a formula for quick-fix happiness.
– Maybe getting fit would solve everything, so I purchased new running shoes and a gym membership.
– Perhaps more creativity would be the thing that brought me joy, so I got journals and craft supplies.
– When I felt emotionally drained, I reached to comfort food, social media, and shopping.
– I acquired new cookbooks, clothes, subscriptions, throw pillows, and plants.

Those poor plants. I’ve killed a lot of plants in my life.

But the most life-changing things in life aren’t things.

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God’s grace is real and it transforms our mess into rich growing ground.

To help you grow your faith, I’ve created a FREE Cultivating Faith E-book that you can get by signing up here. Inside, you’ll find a recording of my Cultivating Faith Live Webinar, where I share my story with you, my top 10 keys to rooted faith, Bible 101, and simple resources for growing a real relationship with God–no perfection required! You’ll also get free scripture cards to download, and much more. Yes, it’s FREE because this is what I needed back when I had no idea where to start. I hope it all encourages you. Feel free to share it with friends too!

And now for something I’m really excited about – The Cultivating Faith GIVEAWAY! Are you ready for this? Here’s what’s included:

*Winners! Please email Jess – Jess@LaraCaseyShop.com with your mailing address and she will get your goodies to you! : ) Congrats, everyone!

1. A 2017 Prayer Journal from Val Marie Paper // Amy Campbell
2. Illustrated Faith Bible Journaling Kit by Shanna Noel // Morgan Dinecola
3. An 8×10 print from the NapTime Diaries Shop (soon to be Amen Paper Company!) // Lauren Ashbaugh Wilt
4. A copy of A Confident Heart by Renee Swope // Andi Justice
5. A copy of Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst // Ivana Andrews
6. A canvas from Lindsay Letters Shop // Britany Nobles
7. The Proverbs Study from SheReadsTruth // Veronica Hummel
8. Kisses from Katie by Katie Davis // Krystal Brown
9. Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin // Lisa Burger
10. An NIV Journaling Bible // Amanda Griffin
11. Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis // Jenny Jones
12. The Jesus Storybook Bible by Sally Lloyd-Jones // Glenda De Hoyos
13. A copy of Make It Happen by yours truly :) // Jennifer Kay Casey
14. A full collection of Write The Word from the Lara Casey Shop // Michelle Graybeal
15. A copy of the In The Wait study by Holly Holt // Karen Cottrell

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One of my favorite items in the giveaway are our Write the Word journals. We made this quick video for you this week to show you how I use mine!

There are lots of ways for you to enter, and we can’t wait to get some of my favorite resources in your hands!
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There are 15 prizes, which means 15 chances for you to win! Your odds are good. Giveaway ends August 31st. Winners will be announced on September 1st here on the blog, so be sure to come back and check to see if you won! Shipping some of these items can get costly, so hard goods are for US entrants only. If you don’t claim your prize within 48 hours, another winner will be selected, so mark your planners and stay posted! : ) 

 

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