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.

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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!

Phew!

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…

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.

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

What Women (and Men) Bring to a Dating Relationship

scan-13.jpegGrant and I had the opportunity to each share on Boundless (Focus on the Family) some of the things men and women exclusively bring to a dating relationship.

Read my piece here (What Women Bring to a Dating Relationship)

Read his piece here (What Men Bring to a Dating Relationship)

Joy in the Nail-Scarred Hands

babypicIt was Valentine’s Day. I held my husband’s hand with nervous excitement as we entered the ultrasound room. I had already heard our baby’s heartbeat five weeks earlier, but now, at 13 weeks, we would both get to see our precious child. It took only a few seconds of the ultrasound technician’s silence to confirm my deepest fears. Tears started streaming down my face before she even said anything. And then she said those two dreaded words, “I’m sorry.” I looked at Grant and together we stared at our child, frozen in time. It seemed we had come so far, but this was as far as we would go. As I looked longingly at the sweet frame of our little one whom we would never get to meet on this earth, I found myself praying silently, “Jesus, this is why you came to die. This death. This hurt. This pain. This is why.”

Continue reading at the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood

I Want The Old Paths

Painted in WaterlogueIt has been two years since Grant and I sold our yellow house and moved into an apartment while he is attending seminary. Two years, and I’m pretty sure our living room area alone has been rearranged at least 15 different ways. Grant will often walk in the door from work only hours later to say, “Is something different in here?” Because our space is small, it has made me even more conscious of being intentional about every piece of furniture in our home and trying to figure out creative ways to make it look homey. I often find satisfaction after making something old look new, but there have been many times when I have felt discouraged. Things often do not look the way I want them to and I run out of storage space for everyday items. And it’s not just the running and organizing of our home that can tempt me to be discouraged, there are tasks that I do not accomplish as timely or as often as I would like in any given day. I was feeling this particular discouragement one evening as I was cleaning the kitchen when Grant noticed my quietness, “GraceAnna, what’s the matter?” Before I could even think, overly dramatic words spilled out, “Sometimes, I feel like I’m failing.” As I spoke, my unaccomplished tasks loomed large before me. “GraceAnna,” Grant replied as he stopped my working hands, “When you are feeling this way you need to remember to ask yourself, ‘Am I doing what God has called me to do?’” I knew the answer all too well to that question and it immediately brought my little pity party into the light of truth. As Grant helped me finish cleaning, I was reminded how easy it is to get my priorities mixed up or desire to do more than God called me to do.

Remind Me of the Truth

We live in a world as women where we are constantly being bombarded with images and ideas of more things we can accomplish: Run a small business, further your education, start an Etsy shop, repaint the living room, write a blogpost, be more artistic, creative, thrifty, adventurous, and for goodness sake, be beautiful while you are at it in case you need to snap a selfie! Aspirations are a good thing and there’s nothing honorable or biblical about being unproductive or lazy. But what I’ve discovered is that while there are many voices sharing ideas of more things I can do, there are far fewer voices reminding me of the truth of who God wants me to be.

Love your husband.

Love your children.

Be self-controlled.

Be pure.

Be a worker at home.

Be kind.

Submit to your husband.

Allow God’s Word to be honored through your obedience.

These seemingly forgotten words do not burden me with more I should add on to what I am already doing. No, His Words strip away my false ideas of accomplishment and remind me that His ways are so much higher than my ways (Is 55:9). His Truth untangles the priorities on my to-do list and encourages me to be the kind of woman He wants me to be. His Word shows me what is truly valuable in this life. The Proverbs 31 woman is a beautiful picture of a busy and productive woman. She did so much and she was such a blessing to everyone. But it can be tempting to get caught up in the specific actions she was completing instead of seeing what I think the Lord wants us to see about this woman. It was not all the things she did that was the point, it was who she was. She was a woman of character. She loved her God and her family and everything she did flowed out of that heart.

I love Jeremiah 6:16 which says:

Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls

Rest. Not a to-do list. Not self-deprecation or a frenzied desire to do more. His ways bring the heart rest.

Am I Doing What God Has Called Me To Do?

I’m so thankful that at the end of a long day I don’t have to evaluate my performance based on all the things I did or did not accomplish. Instead, I can pray, “Lord am I being faithful to what You have called me to do?” His commands for me are not burdensome. They look a lot like washing my husband’s dirty laundry, making his lunch, and letting him know how much I love him. It looks like teaching my three year old how to do a chore and training my littlest not to whine. It means enjoying time at the park with them knowing that they are the work God has called me to. God’s ways are good ways, they are beautiful, but they are also simple. His Word keeps me focused on His calling for me that doesn’t start or end with the colors meshing in my living room. Does not wisdom call and understanding lift up her voice? In a world that is shouting loudly about how I should invest my time, I want to ponder the ancient paths and listen to His voice above all others. His Word reminds me that faithfulness cannot be measured by a to-do list or captured in a photograph. They are the old paths, but they are the good ones.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I — I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference. ~Robert Frost