the moments we make time for

IMG_1323.JPGThis summer has been somewhat of a whirlwind for our little family. Ever since Grant has been in graduate school, it seems we do a very good job of packing our summers as full as we can with family visits, work conferences, and  borderline insane travel itineraries for three children five and under.

The past few days we have been winding down and experiencing some normalcy at home. I have been tackling organization projects and trying to catch up on laundry and ironing and unpacking the mound of clothes in the girls’ room.

Tonight as Grant finished up a little work, I put the girls to bed and I was feeling the exhaustion from how hard I had been pushing all day. “Can you read us a Bible story?” the girls chimed in together when I was ready to turn out the light.

Now THAT’s a difficult one to say “no” to. Fairy tales, no problem. Stories of when I was little, also easier. But a BIBLE STORY, well that’s problematic.

“Girls, Mommy is SO very tired and it is WAY past your bedtime. Let’s do a story in the morning.”

“Mommy???” AudreyKate sweetly and cleverly countered, “How about we tell YOU a Bible story?”

I teetered on the edge for a moment, in my head saying “no,” but instead out came something like a “Yes.”

“Well,” AudreyKate began, “Once upon a time there was a man named Noah. And the people were very bad and didn’t love God. So God told him to build a boat and he did.”

Her face lit up as she began to recall the details of Noah’s construction of the ark, the flood, and the forty days and forty nights they were all on the boat.

“First, he sent out a black bird and it just kept flying and flying. Then,” her hand gesturing the bird’s flight, “He sent out a dove and it kept flying. Then he sent out another dove and it brought back a tiny piece of leaf, and then he sent out one more dove and it never came back and Noah knew there was dry land.”

As I listened, I couldn’t believe with what accuracy she relayed Noah sending out the fowl.

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I even went and fact-checked it in Genesis 8. Surely she had added an extra bird in there.

I kissed her face, which was now satisfactorily delighted by her apt audience (of two). I felt no less tired, but my spirit was lifted somehow.

As I closed the door I thought to myself, “I’m SO glad I made time for that.”

I never feel like there are enough hours in the day to complete the tasks I want to accomplish. And I don’t even consider myself a very busy person. I’m not solving the world’s problems. But I am thankful when God gives me the grace to make time.

Taking a few moments to stop and pray for a friend. Jotting down a Bible verse to meditate on throughout the day. Writing a quick thank-you note or a text to let someone know I’m thinking of them. Packing Grant a lunch or sitting down and listening to my little girl tell me a Bible story.

Sometimes I think that I must be refreshed and my schedule must be clear to have time, but if I wait for that, I will most likely never have time.

I don’t always know what the right things are to make time for with my kids (I do believe it is good for them to hear no). But I do know this, I will probably never be less busy or my schedule more laid-back (if I am doing what God has called me to). I will just be busy with different things. Less diapering, more of something else.

Of course, in my busy moments of taking care of a home and little ones, I often think about how busy Jesus was in his earthly ministry.

The cares of the world. So many needs around him. No time. And I don’t say these things lightly.

He was on his way to die (on the road to Jericho), when blind Bartimaeus cried out to him, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many told Bartimaeus to be silent.

But then those next words, Jesus stopped.

So many people. A cross to bear. A world to die for.

He must have been under intense stress. I can’t even imagine it. He was going to suffer and die by the hands of evil men.

And yet He stopped.

This wasn’t the only time He did this. It is one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry – making time for individuals.

So busy and yet all these moments. He didn’t heal everyone. But He made time for so many.

And because Jesus stopped that day, Bartimaeus regained his sight. There was such a big thing to do, and yet the little thing mattered. And it was no little thing to Bartimaeus.

But I so often think that just the big things matter. All I see are my goals or the “next thing” that I just need to do.

But the little things on the way to the big things matter too. And sometimes those little things are life-changing and soul uplifting!

And they can make the world of difference in the life of a child.

IMG_0982.JPG“Remember when you used to wrap me in towel and swing me in the air?”

“I love it when you sing the toothbrush song.”

“Remember when I used to fall asleep laying on your chest?”

“Mommy, this is the best day ever.”

The big things matter. The work matters. But so do the little things along the way.

Because He stopped.

And everything is changed.

 

 

What Makes a Home


Earlier this week, I shared at a women’s event on what home means to me. This is an excerpt from that night. 

I loved home as a child. Home was a happy place for me and I loved being there. I say these things with gratefulness knowing that for many home was not such a place.

My home was not perfect, but if I were to pick just one thing to explain why I loved home it would be this one thing –  because the gospel was present.

1). The Gospel Makes a Home

From my earliest memories, my parents were sharing the gospel with me. I have so many memories of this. Early memories.

Riding in my Dad’s green Volkswagen as a five year old and listening intently as he explained that my heart was terribly sinful.

That is not something you’ll often hear that you should tell your child. But even as a child I knew I was.

And it was understanding my own heart problem that I felt the gravity of Christ’s death on the cross.

It wasn’t  just a story. I needed His forgiveness.

I also remember the warm summer evening when I prayed to receive Christ on the front porch swing with my mom and dad on either side of me.

While I have many fun memories of home, they all pale in comparison to these memories.

Now was a parent myself, I recognize that even though I try to shield my children as much as possible, they are still confronted with the hard realities of a fallen world just as I was as a child.

Even the happiest of homes cannot erase the realities of sickness, disease, death, and sin. And the home is the first place these questions are either answered or left unanswered.

I was reading a blog not too long ago where a young mom wrote that she didn’t know how to explain to her young child the concept of death.

Her son had said he didn’t want to grow up because then his parents would die and he would die. She didn’t know what to say. And she asked the question to her blog readers what she should tell her child.

My heart grieved for her because without the Gospel there is no good answer to those questions.

This is where the Gospel transforms our homes. Home becomes a place of comfort in the cross.

Home isn’t a good place because it’s a perfect place. Home is a good place because it’s a forgiven place.

A place where God’s forgiveness is taught and forgiveness is modeled to one another.

Any mom can keep a tidy house, or even make her home her domain, but if the Gospel isn’t there, the home is lacking the most important foundation.

“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” – Matthew 7:24



2).  The Word Makes a Home

It is God’s Word that bring joy and order to a home. We know from Duet 6 and Ephesians 5 that children are to be brought up in the admonition and instruction of the Lord.

It is God’s Word which keeps children from falling with wayward women and wicked men as the Proverbs talk about.

Growing up, we were always encouraged to be in God’s Word. When my dad gave me my first Bible inscribed in the front he wrote, “This book will keep you from sin or sin will keep you from this Book.”

God’s word is a lamp unto our feet and a light to our path.

It brings light to the home as we meditate on it, memorize it, pray it, and study it. And as we teach our children the Word we build a foundation for our children to know and love God’s life giving Word.

I am thankful for the many verses I memorized as a child. Even though I didn’t fully understand what many of them meant, God used them to impress His truth on my heart then and as I grew in my knowledge of Him.

The Word brings light and life to even the simplest of homes. A home with the Word is one everyone wants to be because they are welcomed and loved in such a home.

Lastly, and what we’ve talked about so much tonight.

3). A Godly Woman Makes a Home

You have heard tonight on the importance of a mother’s role in the home, so that is the aspect I am going to focus on next.

It is such an important role, and that is why I love the first two points so much. Because without the gospel and the Word, where would any of us be as mothers?

Keeping the gospel and God’s Word as our foundation for mothering is so vital because when you’re actually in the busyness of it, sometimes it can be difficult to see.

In the cyclical days of mothering, I often cannot see how everything is coming together in my children’s lives.

I am folding laundry, I am picking princess dresses off the floor for the umpteenth time, I’m cleaning the kitchen again, I’m reading books on the couch, I’m brushing teeth, I’m dealing with a discipline issue, I’m making someone eat their supper, I’m grabbing a few moments in the Word,  I’m being woken up again, I’m oversleeping again, I’m interrupted again, I’m frustrated, I’m memorizing a Bible verse, I’m catching lightning bugs, I’m holding their hands, and we all go round again.

Sometimes, it feels a bit like a carousel, with both cheery and fretful songs in an alternating pattern. And I wonder if we are going somewhere. Oh I know we are, I really do, but I can’t quite see ahead and I feel like I’ve seen this scenery before.

Last week, I was reading in the book of John and came across these words from Jesus:

“My food, is to do the will of Him who sent me and to finish His work.”

His food.

His sustainment.

His nourishment.

It came from doing God’s will.

Sometimes I think I will find the rest I need by kicking my feet up on the couch in complete silence.

I also find a certain satisfaction from a tidy house and a home cooked meal, or a cleaned out junk drawer.

But here is the truth, those things cannot sustain any woman.  Any wife. Or goodness knows, any mother.

Even though that is the message we are often told (and often tell ourselves). That all these other things will satisfy our hearts.

I’ve  found joy in knowing that I am actually sustained as I do what God has called me to do. Because I find strength in His strength.

And I don’t have to finish all the work, because Jesus did it for me.

The mother makes a home. Not just because of all the things that she does to provide for her family, but because of the God she rests in. That brings a light and a joy and a happiness to even the messiest abodes.

I love Psalm 90:1″O Lord you have been our dwelling place in all generations.”

The Gospel makes a home, the Word makes a home, a mother makes a home, but it is the Lord who is our dwelling place and makes our earthly homes – whether simple or grandeur – mirror our one day heavenly home.

Count It Pure Joy: a generation returning to motherhood

  A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to share at the CBMW T4G pre-conference. I talked about motherhood. Of course if you read this blog, you could have probably guessed that. It’s my life right now, so it is the place I am learning my biggest lessons. This talk really won’t be anything new to those of you who have followed along here for a while, but it’s so much of my heart behind my writing so I wanted to share:

Count It Pure Joy: A Generation Returning To Motherhood

If you are looking for another talk on motherhood, check out Pastor Kevin Deyoung’s talk. There are so many great ones on the site, so I encourage you to check them out. I always love listening to sermons and podcasts while I’m doing housework or at the gym. 

Two of my current favorites are the Read Aloud Revival podcast(so fun!) and Dr. Mohler’s line-by-line series on Exodus (found on his app, Albert Mohler). 

Hope you have a wonderful Tuesday! 

Love from my home to yours,

GraceAnna

Just For Them

  I lay still, Evangeline nestled in the crook of my arm and AudreyKate on the bed above me, holding my hand. 

This is our routine. I lay down with one of them, and then my hand dangles down to the trundle or up beside the spindles on their twin bed. 

I don’t always lay down with them. But I do a lot. Not every night, but more than every other. 

I’ve read this could mess them up. Just like a bunch of other things I might be doing could mess them up. But here I am, laying here, as the soft glow of lamplight from the living room cascades across my girls’ faces as they drift to sleep. 

 I know exactly what Grant is doing in the other room. He’s either reading his Bible or deep in a theology book from one of his never-ending stacks all over the house. One day we will buy real bookshelves. Until then, I keep sending boxes to his office and yet the books keep creeping back in bags and stacks and satchels. 

And that’s how we’ve agreed to make it work. For three years living in 900 square feet with two children, and now in 1275 square feet with three. The great book exchange.

“You can lay down with them,” he always tells me (and some nights he does too). “I’ll read and then we can talk when you’re done.” And that’s what we do. Sometimes his music from the other room causes even me to doze off for a few minutes.  

I used to think I was doing the laying down part for them. That is still my genuine intention. 

They long for connection with me. They need connection with me. They will remember this. 

The stories. The songs. The hugs. I know it will shape them just as it did when my mom did it with me and Grant’s mom with him.

So I manage to find a place around the two Madeline dolls, the six bunnies, and the blankies, and I am finally still after a typical full day. 

I’m doing it for them. But just in the past few months, I’ve realized how much it is for me too. 

I can’t explain it really, but there, nestled in the quiet, I can think. 

Scripture comes to my mind. Prayer. I think about the day and all the moments. I remember where I’ve been and how God keeps showing Himself to be faithful. 

I think about the missionary story we read this morning about Helen Roseveare and the verse God used to stir my heart:

Before they call I will answer, while they are yet speaking I will hear. Isaiah 65:24

He answers before we even pray. That’s what kind of God He is.

I think of how it sometimes seems preposterous to me to claim a Psalm. How could I believe that God would walk with me just as He did David? Or Jesus for that matter?

And then I remember I am now in union with Christ. He has given me every spiritual blessing and because He became poor, I am rich. That changes everything. 

My girls are asleep now and they’ve been so for longer than I realize. I get up to go spend some time with Grant, hear his thoughts on whatever passage of Scripture he’s studying or listen to one of his funny stories. That’s one of my favorite parts of the day, when he makes me laugh. It will be quiet now. Just us. 

I pause, glancing back at my girls’arms and legs sprawled across the blankets, sleeping free as only little children do. 

This was for them. It really was. Just like it was last night and several night before that. 

But as I keep on learning in this journey of motherhood, when I’m confident it is just for them, I discover it is also for me. 


the best stories {and a patched bunny}

etsybunny“Will you tell us a story when you were a little girl?”

I knew the question was coming. At least I should know it is always coming as I (or Grant ) tuck our girls in bed after a typical busy day.

It never fails, I am always tired by the time I turn out their light, although I always want to keep my own burning for a couple more hours.

“A story that’s long and different?” AudreyKate made sure not to forget her classic qualifying sentence.

Because we all know good stories are the ones that keep us hanging for a while and we can’t quite guess what will happen at the end.

I often say no to their requests. Usually because my tired mind just can’t think of a story long and different and we’ve read and told stories and played all day.

And many nights, they just need to go to sleep and not delay bedtime one minute longer.

But tonight, I settled down on the edge of Evangeline’s trundle bed, making room by moving all the bunnies that were crowding us all up, trying to think of a story.

“When I was a little girl, I used to have a bunny. Not an alive bunny, but still she was my special bunny. In fact, I picked her out from the store all by myself.”

“What did she look like, Mama? Did she look like our bunnies?”

I picked up one of their adorable Jellycat bunnies.

“No, not quite like this bunny. See, my bunny wasn’t as lovely as your bunnies. Well at least not to other people. But she was to me.

She had a blue velvet nose, though most of the velvet was worn off. And I loved her so much she became covered in patches where my Mommy had mended all her torn places.”

I then preceded to make my story “long” by telling them about the time I left Bunny at a hotel while on vacation (her name was Bunny). I told them how I cried in the backseat of our red Dodge caravan when I realized Bunny had been forgotten. And even though we were much too far away already, my dad turned around and drove all the way back to get her.

“Mama,” AudreyKate said as I stood up to tuck them in after my long and different story had come to an end, “I want a bunny to love with patches all over it. How can I have a bunny like that?”

“But AudreyKate you do have a bunny like that. Look at all your bunnies.”

“But not a special bunny like your Bunny.”

“AudreyKate, what makes a bunny special is that you choose to love it. That was why Bunny was special even though she became worn, and faded, and covered in patches.”

I watched as she picked out a pale pink bunny and held her close.

“Good night, AudreyKate. Good night, Evangeline.”

As I closed the door, I wondered at how that answer had just come like that.

I guess that’s the thing about motherhood. You just find the words somehow.

A bunny is special because you choose to love it.

This morning, I found myself in the book of 1 Corinthians. I imagined that bustling and socially advanced Greco-Roman culture and what it might have looked like in Paul’s day. A lot of people with a lot of gifting. Many vying voices.

But God says to His people (through the Apostle Paul),

“For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world…”

And then a little later in the chapter, “And because of him you are in Christ Jesus.”

Because of Him.

Not because of me.

In a world bursting with the eloquence and efficiency of others, isn’t it freeing to remember that’s not why our lives matter?

It’s not why he chose to love us.

My life isn’t special because I was the cutest bunny on the shelf, but just because of Him. That is where it begins and ends.

And in the end, the best stories don’t have to be long and different, they just have to be true.

The story of Christ’s redemptive love for His people is just that.

It’s true.

Which should make every person smile – faded, worn or patched.

A father’s love

Lunch w/Daddy @ PII was interrupted from my thoughts by the ring of my cellphone. 

“Hey, Grant!” I cheerily answered my husband’s call. The time alone driving in the car had been good for my soul. He was watching all three kids for the evening.

“Hey” was all he said back to me but it was enough to hear the tension in his voice and know something was not right.

“What’s wrong? What happened?”

“First let me just tell you that everyone is okay.” 

This of course is never a great way to begin a conversation but it is also a necessary and comforting way for any mother who has temporarily stepped out of the house.

“GRANT WHAT HAPPENED?”

“Well, Charles crawled into the bathroom and his big (yet still little) sister thought it would be fun to play hide and seek. She closed and locked the door before I could get him so that I could ‘go find him.’ GraceAnna, I got so panicked, imagining him getting in to the toilet head first that I couldn’t figure out how that little key works to the door. I just could not get it to turn and unlock. I just didn’t know what to do and with each moment I grew more afraid.”

“Grant! What did you do?!”

“I just, well, I just punched through the door.” 

“What?!”

“Yea, I just did the only thing I knew to do in the moment. I was just so worried he was drowning. So I just punched through it and unlocked the door and opened it.” 

“You ‘just’ punched through it? Oh Grant, was Charles crying? Was he hurt?” 

“No, he was just sitting there in the dark, staring at me. He wasn’t hurt and the toilet lid was closed. But the door, well, I’m sorry. It’s just a mess.”

“Of course I don’t care about the door (well not much). I’m just so glad he’s okay and you’re okay and everyone is okay!” 

At this point, I was both relieved and astounded, and just grateful to the Lord for His protection. I imagined the hole right above the door knob, the size of Grant’s fist. 

When I arrived home later that evening, the first thing I did was investigate the door. 

“Oh GRANT!” 

I could not believe. my. eyes. The door did not have a round hole as I had pictured, the entire top half of the door was shredded. Jagged pieces of wood and particle board were everywhere. 

It literally looked like Jaws had made a visit to our bathroom. 

Oh Grant

I wasn’t angry. My heart flooded with compassion for him.

All I could think of was the desperation he must have felt in that moment. His trapped son on the other side of this door. Imagining the worst. 

He would do whatever it took.

Over the past couple of weeks I have had a lot of time to replay the door incident. Turns out it takes quite a while for a new door to ship to our hardware store. 

I have been constantly greeted by our destroyed door and have had to explain to every visitor to our home that no, my husband does not have a violent anger problem.

I really am telling the truth!

Of course, I have been reflecting much on the Father’s love for us – stopping at nothing to save His helpless children. If an earthly father can love his son like that, how much more our Heavenly Father?!

But every time I look at those jagged pieces of wood, I am also somewhat taken aback by the violence of it.

And I think, this is how we can often be tempted to see God isn’t it?

All jagged. All wrath. Powerful and disappointed in us.

Have you read the God of the Old Testament? they say. 

He’s all violence and judgment.

All jagged. No love. 

They see the laws. Unclean. Unclean. Unclean.

But then they miss Jesus there, with the sick people crowding all around him.

I miss Jesus there. 

Not retreating from the smells and presence of sickness and death. 

The perfectly clean One who doesn’t separate himself from us. He came to us. His hands touching ours, making us new.

And when we embrace the fullness of who He is, not molding him into our own characterization or rejecting Him all together, we see Him.

We are unexplicably touched by Him.

We come to a deeper understanding that He takes on the wrath we deserve because of His love. 

So much wrath and so. much. love.

If we do not encounter the harshness of it all we miss the wonder of it all. 

The nails. The cross. The thorns.

The love. The forgiveness. The glory.

It humbles us. It astounds us. It drives us to our knees. 

We once were lost but now we are found. 

Because He loves us. 

Oh how He loves us. 

And that is something we cannot always so easily explain but we just know it. He’s knocked the door down, and we see that He loves us. Because that’s what good fathers do. 

But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. ~ Romans 5:8


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Simple Winter Days

“Children tie the feet,” is an old Tamil saying that the missionary Amy Carmichael quoted.

Amy wasn’t a physical mother (she never married), but she was “Amma” (which means mother) to hundreds of little boys and girls at her home for children (Dohnavur) near the southern tip of India. Her work for those children not only changed countless lives in her lifetime, but who can measure the impact she made to generations as the children she raised grew up?

The biographer Iain Murray, wrote of Amy, “She would not have let her feet be so tied had she not been convinced that God meant her to be the full-time ‘mother’ of ‘the family’ now gathered.”

Most of the children Amy took care and taught were former temple children, entrapped in a dark life of temple prostitution and sexual slavery.

Amy sacrificed everything so that those little ones could experience not just physical freedom, but ultimately spiritual freedom. Her highest calling was to teach each child God’s love for them.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this quote lately and the implications in my own life.

Isn’t it the things that seem to”bind us” that often have the most significance?

But just like Amy, I must be convinced to the very core of my being that the work God has given me has lasting value, otherwise it will seem to be a hinderance. Mere tethers to some sort of better thing.

My simple mornings, afternoons, and evenings at home lose their greatest meaning.

I could reflect more on that this morning, but I’m sure there is much for you to take away from Amy’s words in whatever season of life you may find yourself.

Speaking of being “tied,” we spend much time at home these days since it’s winter (I think maybe I’m starting to get used to a real winter?) and because three little ones who I do not always want to drag around in the cold (though we do fit in some fun outings).

These ordinary moments at home I have really come to treasure so much.

From my home to yours,

GraceAnna

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