Dream Big, My Darling Daughters

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It was Saturday morning and I turned on the Disney channel for my girls to watch Doc McStuffins while I cleaned the kitchen after our slow and sticky breakfast.

I tuned out the noise of their show, until a Disney commercial drew me back in and I leaned over the sink to get the TV in my line of sight.

My little girls were glued as Disney princesses began to dance across the screen and the narrator opened with,

“For every girl who dreams big, there is a princess to show her it’s possible…”

Then the catchy, motivating, inspiring music came on,

You could be the hero

You could get the gold

Breaking all the records they thought, never could be broke

As the song continued, little girls did brave things on the screen: splashing into a lake from a rope swing, hitting the bullseye with a bow & arrow, and diving off the diving board to name just a few.

The music continued,

Do it for your people

Do it for your pride

How you ever gonna know if you never even try?

Do it for your country

Do it for your name

 

Besides the catchy and inspiring tune, there was a lot to like about the message of the commercial. Be strong. Be brave. Try even if it means you fail. Do something for your people. Your country. Your family.

But then the next part is what really hit me.

‘Cause there’s gonna be a day

When your standing in the hall of fame

And the world’s gonna know your name

‘Cause you burn with the brightest flame

And the world’s gonna know your name

And you’ll be on the walls of the hall of fame

I watched my little girls’ faces as the song came to a close, Pocahontas staring off in to the distance, rose petals swirling.

I began to think about what I would say to them. How I would point to the good while denying the message of self-glory that permeated the song?

And that was it – the self-glory – that was what caused an ache deep inside me somewhere.

I want my girls to be strong. I want them to be bold. I don’t want them to be afraid of failure.

But I never, ever want them to believe that their greatest accomplishments are the ones they see in this life. That being famous, popular, or taking the gold is where true happiness is found.

I won’t be sad if they are successful materially or socially in this life. I wan’t them to do what they enjoy and love. But I pray that whatever shoots they grow here in this world, their roots in God’s kingdom are at least twice as deep.

This is where the invisible line is drawn.

Between the girls who grow up to believe that this life holds true happiness and the girls who know that this world is just the shadow.

This of course is the message of God’s kingdom versus the message of the world.

The world says, “Let the world know your name!”

Jesus says, “The meek will inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5).”

The world says, “Be first!”

Jesus says, “The last shall be first and the first last (Matthew 20:16).”

It doesn’t make sense, but it is the gospel.

We bring nothing. He offers everything (2 Kings 5:13-14).

He was born in a manger not a palace. He suffered on a cross instead of bringing a political and military victory. A crown of thorns instead of gold. Buried in another’s  tomb instead of the royal burial He deserved.

He said His way is narrow and not broad (Matthew 7:14).

It is all just so paradoxical.

That living for His glory not our own is what it actually means to invest in the Kingdom.

It all matters so much. The things nobody sees but that are done in the name of Jesus.

The young woman serving on the mission field. The single mom trusting God with her future. The seminary wife living on a tight budget. The mother rocking her baby in the solitude of the night. The daughter caring for an ailing parent. The mom pleading to God on behalf of her wayward child. The woman who serves faithfully week in and week out in her church.

Some of the greatest acts of valor may never be known in this life. But there are women all over the world investing in a kingdom that cannot be seen. Because they love Christ, they have given all they have. They have broken the vial of costly perfume and poured it out on the head of their Savior because they love Him (Mark 14:3).

img_0385-1That is what I want my dear girls to know. That their greatest acts aren’t done in their own strength for their own glory, but for Him. And in those moments, and in this land of the dying, they will find a happiness that cannot be rivaled. It is better than if the whole world were applauding them.

Cause there will be a day, when we are all standing in the true hall of fame. And Jesus will be there – the brightest flame – and we will wonder why we ever wanted to live for our own names. We will forget ourselves and we will thank God for every act of grace He gave us on earth to see beyond the temporal.

So dream big, my darling daughters, because if you are His, He has made it possible. Because you belong to a royal kingdom. And in that kingdom is where the true and happy daughters dwell. And all their dreams come true because they find their beginning and ending in Him.

Being Theirs: squiggly lines and all

  I sat across from my four-year-old at the kitchen table. She had her bundle of brightly colored markers and I had my pen and paper, jotting down items I needed to pick up at the grocery store later that day. 

My preschooler loves to draw. And I am the mom who has a difficult time throwing away any of her masterpieces. I can be ferocious when it comes to cleaning out a junk drawer or my closet for that matter, but the scraps of paper I find all over the house with “mamama” written on them, those are here to stay.

Today though, I heard sighs as my AudreyKate attempted to draw Santa and his sleigh. I had turned on a step-by-step art instructional video when she told me her desire to draw Santa. I felt some extra help was needed. 

And usually she loves following the directions geared just for her age. 

“Mama, mine doesn’t look like his.” She finally exclaimed, disappointment in her voice. 

“It doesn’t look like it’s supposed to look. It doesn’t look perfect.” 

I compared her squiggly lines to the instructor’s smooth and clean ones, and I loved her interpretation all the more.

Santa’s sleigh had character and his bag of gifts was much too big for a sled of that size to haul. Just magical enough. 

And I loved the sweetness of her little hands drawing it just so. 

I turned off the  video and looked into her eyes.

“AudreyKate, I love it! But listen to Mama, the more you practice, the better you will become. But you also need to know that I love what YOU draw. I don’t want what that man drew, I want you! I want your perspective and the way you do it. Just look around the kitchen.” 

Her eyes scanned the room where I had her art taped up all over the sliding glass window and the fridge. 

“See? What would I do without all my AudreyKate drawings? Our house just wouldn’t feel the same.” 

As I spoke words of affirmation into her heart, I was immediately struck with the truth of my own words.

How often do I think, I just wish could do things better.

Keep my house cleaner or more organized. Plan better. Get up even earlier. Eat healthier. Read more. Be more creative, thrifty, and articulate.  

If I could just have it more together like her.

If I could just do it perfectly.

If my lines could be a little less squiggly and a little more smooth.

But as I sat across the table from my almost five-year-old, I realized she doesn’t want that person.

She wants me. 

She likes the way I do things. The way I give hugs. The way I read to her. My smell.  The way we wash dishes or fold laundry together. 

She never once has told me I need to just do things a little more perfectly. 

And neither has my husband.

He loves my cooking.

He tells me I’m “so gifted” and “I love your style,” even though I think he would say that no matter what. 

He likes the routines I’ve developed at home, my efforts at teaching and training our children, and the dates out for the two of us that I randomly schedule. 

“You’re doing great. I love the way you do things,” he says.

I know I have areas where I need to grow, much to strive and reach for, but my family doesn’t see all that, they see ME.

Titus 2:4 says “urge the younger women to love THEIR husbands and children” (emphasis mine).

Not someone else’s.

 Because they don’t want anyone else. 

 They want YOU.

At the end of the day, your husband doesn’t want someone else’s perpective, he wants yours. 

He doesn’t want someone else’s touch, he wants yours. 

He doesn’t care how so-and-so blogger does it, he loves how you do it.

And your children don’t want adventure mom, minimalist mom, vintage mom, fixer-upper mom, clean-eats mom, running mom, trendy mom, or scholar mom. 

They want THEIR mom.

Whether you’re all of those things or none. 

Because the song of your heart is more beautiful to them than the perfection of any symphony. 

Just like drawings taped to the refrigerator door, your talents are what they long for because they love you. 

So as you start a new week, remember that God has called you to the best sort of task – being THEIRS. 

Squiggly lines and all. 

The Dior Woman and True Freedom

Many people would look at my life (with a husband and three children) and say that I have no freedom. Today I share my heart on these things at CBMW

  I usually do not give much notice to commercials (fast forwarding whenever possible), but recently an advertisement for the perfume, Miss Dior, did exactly what the producer intended – it caught my full attention.

In the film, Natalie Portman stars as a runaway bride. The wedding venue and dress exude absolute perfection. But the film is strangely black and white.

Read the rest here 

Praise, Pray, and Peg Away

  
I really want to be a good mom. I want to be generous in love and consistent in discipline. I want to dig in, not merely get through the day or a stage. 
And the honest truth is, I love this task I’ve been called to. I really do. 
I love the newborn and baby stage. I love the toddler age. 

I know there are many events and opportunities I’ve “missed” these past four and a half years, but I don’t even care. The moments spent with my children have been worth any experience I could have had otherwise. 

But with that being said, this job is hard. Really hard. And there are two realities that annoyingly get in the way:

1). I am a sinner. 2). My kids are sinners. 

And some days, we seem to be a little more sinful than on others. 

I was recently having such a day and I expressed my frustration to Grant saying, “I don’t know if it’s me or if it’s them.” 

He replied, “Both.” 

“Thanks, Grant.”

This week, we have been in Wheaton, IL while Grant is conducting PhD research in the Billy Graham Archives. 

Today, while he was going through documents, he thoughtfully pulled an article he knew I would like. It is a little piece published in June of 1957 on Ruth Graham, highlighting her role as wife and mother. 

I haven’t read much on Mrs. Graham’s life, but the article mentioned that she had a motto she put into practice, “Praise and Pray and Peg away.” 

Mrs. Graham was often mothering alone (5 kids) while her famous husband was away preaching. 

She did not have it easy. 

As moms, at times we may be tempted to think that our lives are particularly difficult. 

Our child is more strong willed than someone else’s. Or our husband travels more. Or you name it. I know I’ve been down that road. 

While this may be true in some situations, I’ve humbly come to realize that for the most part it is probably not. Everyone has their struggles.

The biggest punch in the gut comparison is more accurately how we handle it.

Mrs. Graham, for example, lived by a little motto. 

Praise. Pray. Peg away. 

I love that. 

Praise God when the first inclination is to complain. Praise Him that He is doing something good even when it feels like He is not. Thank Him for His innumerable blessings. Praise Him for His ever available grace.   

Pray. Get on your knees and cry out to God for help. The bed wetting situation? Pray. The picky eater? Pray. The obedience problem? Pray. 

He didn’t just promise to listen when you are in the pew. He is always listening! 

“For you, O Lord, have not forsaken those who seek you.” Psalm 9:10

Peg away. Keep moving. Do the next thing. Wash the next dish. Wipe the tears. Make dinner. Trust God to work in great ways. 

I don’t know what tomorrow will hold, but thank you Mrs. Graham for living by a motto that aligns my heart in the good way. 

That’s better than any “pick me up,” “me time,” or “break.” 

Because being a good mother means quite simply walking in the good way. 

So tomorrow I want praise more, pray more, and keep pegging away. And as the insightful Anne Shirley said, “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” 

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.”

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

Thank You Mrs. Elliot

  I was 15 years old when my mom first gave me a copy of Passion & Purity. I sat in a lawn chair in our backyard and almost read it straight through until I was drenched in sweat and the morning sun had turned into a blazing afternoon.
I couldn’t put it down. 
In the coming years I devoured her writings….

Read the rest here