A World With Octobers

IMG_1563As a young girl, October was always my favorite month of the year. Its arrival meant my birthday, the much-anticipated harvest festival our church held at a nearby farm, and being able to sit on the front porch instead of inside to work on school lessons.

I can pretty confidently say October is still my favorite month, though I have learned I really do love all the “in between” weeks nestled in each season the best. Those glorious days when spring finally breaks through the cold of winter, the inaugural “hot” day of summer, the first snowflake of winter, and of course the transition from the warmth of summer to all that is so beautiful about fall. What a blessing the Lord brings change into our lives and that even the weather has a dynamic rotation.

But as much as I love change, when it comes to mothering and life in general, transition is not always easy. Just yesterday morning a new picture greeted me from my Timehop, transporting me to a memory three years ago.

My oldest was basically a baby and all the thoughts and feelings of that day and the emotions of that fall of first arriving at seminary came flooding back. The people. The places. The joys and the struggles.

How has it been three years already?

And the shocking thing about being a mother is the realization my children grow so quickly, and with each change of the season, they are not the same.

As I opened my Bible, pondering these things and praying through Psalm 1, my soul immediately found perspective:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers:

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,

Which yields its fruit in its season, 

And its leaf does not wither;

And in whatever he does he prospers.

When I look back on the past few years and even further, I am grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness. Every day I get to be a wife to Grant and a mom to my kids is truly a privilege and a gift.

My heart fills with nostalgic joy when I remember the day Grant and I got married and for each day we have had with our children. I cherish the fruit the Lord has brought in each season.

But I cannot go back. And just like it is impossible to store produce for very long, I cannot cling to the things of the past.

And each day I live, my memories from each new season only grow.

But what an encouragement it is when God brings a new season.

There is fresh and good fruit to be produced in my life today. New ways to pour out my heart to God. New ways to encourage my husband. New songs to sing to my children. New memories. New ways to see God working. 12068505_10107201162060384_8776554053182777259_o

It would be hard to live in a world without Octobers. But even harder to live in a world where God did not faithfully make things new in our hearts.

There is new fruit to be produced.

And that warms my heart this October.

“Choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.”

Learning to See: On Motherhood & Melted Crayons

It all started with soggy running shoes around six AM. I woke extra early to get a short run in before the kids woke up and Grant left for work. I went out to the back patio to grab my shoes when I discovered that I had completely forgotten what had transpired the afternoon before.

My tired mind flashed back to the image of a two-year-old all grins and giggles as she waded in the baby pool using my only pair of running shoes as some sort of dilapidated water skis.

Of course, I then did the unthinkable. I picked up my still soggy shoes and went running anyway, trying desperately to not think about what kind of bacteria was likely breeding around my toes with each squishy step.

And then there was the melted red crayon later that afternoon which basically ruined an entire load of laundry. Crayon was left in pocket of afore mentioned two-year-old. I barely even mentioned the incidents, realizing they were not intentional acts of destruction.

If anything, it was my fault for leaving my running shoes next to the pool and for not checking pockets before throwing laundry into the wash. My toddler was just being who she was, all of thirty-five months old.

But late that evening, when I was finishing up housework and about to get ready for bed, it was the toilet paper that pushed me. I walked in to the girls’ bathroom to find what looked like at least half a roll of toilet paper which had been finely shredded in little pieces everywhere. Almost as if a squirrel was trying to turn the tile into a comfy nest.

That’s when I felt my blood pressure rise and I knew this wasn’t an innocent act. This was not cute. “Who did this with the toilet paper? I called down the hall, my voice agitated.

I heard a little voice own it immediately, “I did it, Mommy! I DID IT!”

At that moment, Grant walked down the hall and saw me beginning to pick up the shreds of toilet paper. “Can you believe this? I cannot believe she would think this was okay?!” I exclaimed to him.

I could still hear her little voice saying something down the hall but was too caught up in my frustration to listen. I would go to her room and talk with her. Momma was not happy.

“GraceAnna, stop!” Grant’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Step back and look at this.” I stood up and stepped out of the bathroom to survey the damage again. “GraceAnna, she wasn’t trying to shred the paper for fun. See that toilet paper roll, she was putting the new one on the toilet paper holder. All the shredding was her trying to get the wrapper off.”

I stood there quietly and saw that to my shock, Grant was right. I had totally missed it. I had totally and completely missed it.

The little shreds had meant something. She was trying to accomplish something.

That’s when I heard the happy voice down the hall exclaim again, “I did it Mommy! I DID IT!”

I looked at Grant and with tears in my eyes said, Grant, I didn’t even see it.”

“Come here!” I called to the little voice and she ran out of her room ever so proudly. I got down on my knees and said, “Momma is so proud of you for putting the toilet paper roll on the holder. What a good helper you are to Mommy. Thank you so much!”

I gave her the biggest hug and showered her with kisses and she beamed from head to toe before I sent her back to bed.

As I got back on the bathroom floor to finish cleaning up, my heart felt much like the tiny shreds of tissue I threw in the waste basket. I had almost missed it.

Seeing With New Eyes

When you are a mom of young children, it can be so easy to get wrapped up in all the doing. There are so many daily needs and demands that little people require of you, that it can often be hard to see beyond the task at hand.

But as moms who have been transformed by Christ, we must ask the Lord to help us see beyond the daily routine, to the hearts of our children.

Mothering isn’t just doing, it is seeing.

In Matthew chapter 19, wedged between Jesus’ teaching on divorce and sharing the gospel with a rich young man, is the account of Jesus blessing the little children (see also Mark 10 and Luke 18).

People (presumably parents) were bringing children to Jesus that “he might touch them.” The disciples sized up the situation and they acted accordingly. These children were a distraction to Jesus’ ministry and they promptly “rebuked the people.”

Jesus however, didn’t see the situation that way. Instead, He was indignant at his disciples for their actions and exclaimed, “Let the little children come to me, for such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

I know many of us know this story, but do we as moms really know it?

Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus was always doing this…always seeing beyond the circumstance at hand. Seeing beyond the disease. Beyond the storm. Beyond pangs of hunger and bread and fish.

Almost as if He had a completely different set of eyes for every situation.

Which He did.

And He does.

He has eyes that pierce the depths.

I cannot tell you how many times my mind has thought about that shredded roll of toilet paper this week. It was a stark reminder that without the Lord’s help I cannot see beyond the temporal with my children. I need to really see not just do.

I’m not just managing little ones. Even though I am doing that. I’m not just getting through the routine of the day and making sure everyone is fed and clothed and (hopefully) rested.

I am shepherding the souls of children who will never die.

The beauty of the gospel is that He has given me new eyes and a new heart. I have been transformed and am being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and truth of His perfect Word.

I don’t have to just clean up shredded toilet paper, wet shoes, or melted crayons. With His help, I can see hearts that need love, training, and the forgiveness of Jesus.

I have the privilege of not just doing, but really seeing.

What a journey this is. What a joy. I am laughing along the way, I am crying, I am growing, and I am learning to see.

Life Update & Conference Messages

It has been IMG_7677a busy season for us and I have been meaning to post a bit of an update here on my blog for quite a while. Grant graduated with his M.Div. from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in May. We are thankful to the Lord to have made it through this phase of his theological training. It was indeed a “phase” of sorts because he will continue his education over the next few years and Lord willing, receive his PhD! More about that later though.

Right before Grant’s graduation, we flew out to Colorado for Grant to teach a conference on marriage, biblical manhood and womanhood, and sexuality. I normally do not travel with Grant when he speaks, but since it was Colorado, he made all the arrangements for me to come along.

It was a very busy and packed trip as Grant was also studying for finals in his spare time when he wasn’t teaching. We were incredibly blessed by the body of Christ there and made some wonderful relationships I know we will keep!

That being said, I’ve been wanting to get some of Grant’s talks up here ever since May!

They are linked below. I hope God encourages your heart through them!

Castleberry2015-0722cropThe Honor of God in the Cultural Storm

Biblical Overview of Marriage and Biblical Manhood & Womanhood

The Beauty of a Christian Marriage

Speaking the Truth in Love: The Christian Response to Homosexuality

Always Room

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I put together a beautiful nursery for our oldest, AudreyKate, months before she emerged from my womb. I chose a soft green color for her walls and an artist from our church painted the most beautiful and delicate birds “perching” in different corners of her room.  With each passing week of my pregnancy I would add another finishing touch to her space. It was a way for me to say, “You are loved” before she was even born.

She was in that nursery 17 months before God called us away from our yellow house with the screened in porch and my “kitchen sink river view.”

I didn’t know how much I had to learn as we drove miles away from the coast I’d loved since I was a child.

Our first few weeks in our apartment were hard for me. The place seemed dark inside, even on sunny days. A grandeur cliff blocks much of the sunlight along with the limited windows that come with living in an apartment.

I quoted lines from Great Is Thy Faithfulness to comfort my soul on those new and unfamiliar mornings.

Of course, hardly anything from AudreyKate’s old nursery fit in the girls’ new nursery (yes girls, Evangeline was born 2 months after we moved).

I rearranged then gave things away.

Rearranged and gave more away.

All those little touches of love I had put up before seemed to be walking right out the door. This wasn’t the sweet “crowded but full of love” seminary home I had pictured.

I became incredibly thankful for the unusually spacious closets in our new place.

It was a life changing moment the day I discovered the pack n play fit perfectly inside. There was even room for a fan to keep fresh air circulating with the door cracked.

I got rid of more of my things.

My new nursery.

And so it became for our sweet Charles too. No baby blue bedding and no place to hang the “cow jumped over the moon” print I had been saving since my sister-in-law passed it down to me.

Not much room.

But just enough.

It is amazing what tiny walls can do for a crowded heart.

Moving out selfishness and reminding me that sacrifice is not just something someone else does when they battle cancer or move overseas.

Sacrifice is what God has called me to right now. Whatever it is.

His call is resoundingly and often difficultly clear, “Follow me.”

And when I do, I realize that true joy isn’t found in what I have or don’t have or what I long for, but in how I serve.

Because that is what Christianity is truly all about.

His exultation was not in fan fair or “number of followers” or “likes,” but on a wooden cross of shame.

He became poor so that we might become rich.

He “came to die.”

There was a song I sang as a child that went like this:

What can I give Him poor as I am? If I were a shepherd I would bring Him a lamb. If I were a wiseman I would sure do my part. What can I give Him? I will give Him my heart.

No sacrifice is too great for Him. But none is too small.

Because it’s not about the nursery, or the lack of space, or whatever it is for you. 

It’s about your heart.

You are LOVED.

And with Him there is always plenty of room.

Let’s Stay Home

It’s been two months since I made the big transition from being of mom of 2, to a mom of 3!


With that transition, I’ve spent a lot of time at home. Including my first week home from the hospital when a blizzard hit and I didn’t step out the front door for a week. A week! Never in my life has that happened and I kind of hope it never does again.

Times of transition and change always seem to provide a good opportunity to reflect and reevaluate things in my life. When it comes to mothering, I look back on what the season has been like, the challenges I’ve faced, and the areas I most want to grow.

With adding a third baby to the mix (and currently not getting out as often as I was), I’ve come to appreciate being at home even more. The Lord has been faithful to remind me that my home is where I am most needed and along with service to my church, is the most important place I spend my time.

Here are just three things I’ve been pondering the past couple weeks:

My children need me to be home

Even as a stay-at-home mom (which I like to call work-at-home mom ;-)), it can still be very easy to always be on the go. There is often so much to do and a plethora of options to fill up my time: groceries, errands, library, park, play dates, post office, ballet, swim, gym, and of course, Target!

I love being active and getting things done during the week. But I am also realizing that when I am constantly on the go, I’m more prone to miss things with my kids. I’m buckling carseats and making sure hands are held and the baby isn’t crying and lists aren’t flying and no one is wetting their pants for goodness sake! It’s much easier for me to get impatient, stressed, and misjudge situations with my children.

These days at home have taught me the importance of streamlining my week as much as I am able (because all of the things above are good things) so that I have more undistracted time with my children at home.

I need to slow down and really listen to their stories and made-up songs.

IMG_6618I need to say “yes” more than “not right now” when they say, “Mommy can you color with me?”And maybe even learn to draw a strange creature called a “minion” (even if I have to watch a youtube art lesson).

I need to show them how to clean their room (and not just expect them to know).

I need to pray for them and with them when they tell me that they want to believe in Jesus but they don’t understand why they can’t see Him right now and that they really wish He would just come sit on their bed.

I need to take the time to lay down with them and tell them story after story of “when you were a little girl” because one day they won’t be either.

A relationship cannot grow unless it is cultivated. And their little hearts are the softest kind of soil.

I need to be home

I think there can be a lot of pressure from others and even from ourselves, to always be on the go. 5 little words have been a great comfort to me lately, “It’s okay to stay home.”

And it is not only okay, it is good.

Titus 2 teaches us as young wives and moms that our home is not only where we should be busy, but that we actually need older women to remind us to spend our time there because we often forget.

What a load of pressure was recently lifted off of me when I shared with an older woman that I couldn’t seem to get out the door the same way as before and she gently reminded me I didn’t need to.IMG_6764

It’s okay to not get all those errands accomplished. It’s okay to not make every play date or library hour. It’s okay to spend an hour coloring and then two hours trying to clean it all up. It’s okay. 

I recently found a sweet print online that says, “Let’s Stay Home.” I printed it out and put it on my fridge because it reminds me of a little four year old who says to me often, “I just want to be home today.” 

And I want to say on more days than one, “Yes, that is exactly the plan.

My husband needs me to be home

It’s often said, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s true though isn’t it? I’ve found that when I try to do too much outside my home, I’m not the happy and kind wife my husband loves to love.

When I make more time to be in the Word and focus my energies where they truly need to be, I am less frazzled and more content when my man walks through the door.

And even my Texan who thinks big and doesn’t analyze details will express in his way how much he appreciates how I’ve made our place a home.

He wants to come home not just because I’m there, but because he knows I want to be there. And that makes all the difference.

Because when I’m happy to be home, all those moments of cleaning up spilled milk, folding yet another pile of laundry, organizing a junk drawer, or wiping down a dirty toilet lid, show how much I love this life we’ve made together.

It says this home matters to me because you do.

I’m not just a “cleaning lady” who cleans to clean, I clean because I love.

I wash dishes because I love.

I wake up in the middle of the night to feed a baby because I love.

I clean a dirty oven because I love.

I make my husband his favorite dessert because I love.

I read stories in my pajamas without make-up on because I love.

I make paper chains and paper snowmen not because I’m “crafty” but because I love.

I do things that may seem meaningless to others or a waste of my mental energies because I love.

I love my husband. I love my children. And on top of all that, God is happy that I do (Titus 2:4).

So I think I will enjoy this season for a very long time.

And as much as I can, say, “Let’s stay home.”

My Journey to Complementarianism

The DockAs a young girl, I always hoped I would grow up to be a wife and a mother. I had other aspirations too, including becoming a singer-songwriter or maybe a novelist. But being a wife and a mom were at the top of my list. I wanted those things because I grew up in a home where I saw them as valued and esteemed roles. My own understanding of biblical manhood and womanhood would be further developed in college and afterwards as I read good books affirming distinct gender roles. But it was in my formative years where I first saw the beauty of God’s design for marriage and family. And my heart longed for it.

Growing up as the only girl sandwiched between two older and two younger brothers, I was “blessed” with an understanding that boys and girls, though similar in many ways, are also quite different

Read the rest in the latest 9Marks journal, Complementarianism & The Local Church…

A Brave New Mom

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIt wasn’t my plan to tackle the grocery store anytime soon with a newborn and two toddlers.

My plan is to go in the evenings after Grant gets home or as a family on the weekends.

But this past weekend came and went and I didn’t want to go to the store. And this morning rolled around and I discovered that we were pretty much out of everything.

Could I tackle the store for a few items? Would that be insane?

I’ll be honest, caring for a newborn is much easier the third time around. I’m relaxed about it and that feels so good. Most of the time, I realize why our son is crying. And the other times, I realize he is just fussy because he is a baby and babies cry.

I’m tired during the day and I have circles under my eyes but I also realize it won’t be like this for long.

But of course this time around, I’m not just caring for a newborn. I am also raising a two-year-old and a four-year-old. Two little people who are struggling for independence but are still ever so dependent on me.

I am figuring it out.

And today, it was the grocery store.

I pulled into the lot and looked at the three sweet faces in the back seat.

Could I do this? 

And then I did what all mothers do. Regardless of how I felt in that moment, I made a plan of action and executed it.

With each push of the buggy through the grocery aisles, I felt more confident. I could do this. 

Before I knew it, I was heading home with a trunk full of groceries and not just two, but three children safely strapped in the backseat (one crying his little head off).

Thank you, God, I prayed. Thank you for that.

Unchartered Frontier

Becoming a mother is like embarking on unchartered territory or pioneering a new land. From the moment you find out you are pregnant, to the daily grind of running a house with little ones, there is so much unknown.

Even though millions of women have gone before you on this journey, it’s still new to you.

When you are expecting your first child, you don’t know what labor and delivery will be like. You wonder if you will be able to do it. How do women do it?

And when you bring your baby home from the hospital, you frantically realize that there is no instruction manual. That being a mom really is all up to you.

Then there is each new challenge along the way: figuring out how carseats and strollers hook & buckle, a manageable nap time routine, and whether you should rock your little one or let them cry it out.

With each new step, you do things you never thought you could. Before you know it, it’s second nature and the lady in the grocery store looks at you and says, “Wow, you have your hands full!” You smile and think, It’s not that hard. You’ve forgotten that not that long ago you were afraid to get out of the car.

And then you realize, motherhood has changed you. You are strong.

Strength in Weakness

Being a mother is not about having it all together. In fact, the moment that you think things are going pretty swell, is exactly the moment when something comes along that throws you for a loop. You are driven to your knees and like a new mom afraid to go in the grocery store you say, God please help me.

And He does. And you discover once again that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

When I was a brand new mom and the dishes were piled high or I was struggling with how to get our daughter to sleep, Grant would often whisper in my ear, “Be strong and courageous.” 

Those words helped me look beyond myself and what I thought I could handle, to God. He was and is the one who gives me strength for this task of motherhood. He will finish the good work He has started in me (Phil. 1:6). That includes every dirty diaper and each new step.

A Brave New Mom

Being a mother is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the selfish.

But the problem is, we are faint of heart and we are selfish.

But that’s the amazing thing about God. He uses the weak things of this world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). And when we call on Him in repentance and humility, He hears (2 Chron. 7:14).

And He makes us strong (Isaiah 40:31).

So, new mom, don’t be afraid. Turn to God. He will help you figure it out. He will be with you as you step into the unknown.

And to the mom who’s been at it a while, remember the One who helped you at the very beginning. He’s still there. And He delights in making the weak strong.

Isaiah 40:27-31
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

If you were encouraged by this piece, you might also like The Cost of Motherhood

The Cost of Motherhood

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetTwo weeks ago {Feb 11, 12:28am} we welcomed our third child into the world, Charles Kelly Castleberry III. We love our sweet Charles (or Charlie) so very much already and it’s still hard for me to believe he is actually here!

It is also difficult for me to believe that our oldest, AudreyKate, will be four years old next week! And now Grant and I have three kids ages four and under!

Since Charles’ arrival, I’ve been reflecting a lot on how motherhood has changed my life.

Not too long ago, I read a blog post a young woman had written about how she was afraid to become a mother because it might cause her to lose herself. I have mulled over those words off and on since I read them and have asked myself the question, What has motherhood caused me to lose?

As I sit here with a newborn on my lap, typing with one hand, I cannot help but agree that being a mother has come at a cost.

Motherhood has caused me to:

Lose sleep.

Lose tears.

Lose writing time.

Lose reading time.

Lose “me time”.

Lose quiet time.

Lose my patience, my temper, and my uncluttered house.

It is the biggest (daily) sacrifice I have ever made.

I guess it’s true. It has caused me to lose myself.

My only regret is that I am four years into this journey and I haven’t lost more of ME. I’m still more selfish and self-centered than I want to be.

John the Baptist, who Jesus said was the greatest man who ever lived (Matthew 11:11), had one burning desire:

He must increase, but I must decrease.

For the Christian wife and mother, motherhood is a calling.

God has used little hands and little feet to help me understand that I cannot lose myself enough in the calling He has given me.

And it is in the losing that something of worth is truly gained.

Motherhood has cost me, but make no mistake, it hasn’t robbed me.

It has given more than I could have ever hoped or imagined. It has caused me to look to the Lord and redefine what I value as important. It has changed me and grown me and helped me to value the quiet, unnoticed things.

Changing a diaper in the middle of the night.

Laying down with a three-year-old who needs me.

And cleaning up a potty training accident yet again.

These things among many others are helping me turn from my selfishness and pursue that which is good and right and true.

One of my favorite verses is Luke 9:23-24:

And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.”

This is the beauty and wonder of the gospel. It is in the losing that we gain.IMG_5060

When I held our sweet Charlie for the first time just two weeks ago, I couldn’t stop the tears from flowing. Nine months of anticipation (and sickness) and a long labor had all been worth it.

His life is a gift beyond compare.

To my dear AudreyKate and Evangeline, you are worth it. Nothing I’ve lost of myself compares to what I have gained in being your mom.

And I can only pray that I keep on decreasing so that you may clearly see the One who is worth it all.


If you were encouraged by this piece, you might also like A Brave New Mom