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

My Summer Journey Through The Old Testament

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetReading through the Old Testament has always been a rewarding and yet difficult challenge for me.

This summer, I have a new-found love for a couple books that I have really struggled through in the past.

Leviticus and Numbers.

I think my understanding and new appreciation for these books began in April when Grant and I attended T4G and I heard this message by Ligon Duncan on Numbers 5.

There are a handful of sermons that I know almost by heart because God has used them so profoundly to impact me.

This message on Numbers immediately became one of them. I thought about it for days afterward and four months later I am still thinking about it.

If I could point to one thing that has helped me during my journey of studying Old Testament books, I would say it is asking myself the simple question, “How does this point to Christ?”

When I began asking this question, I started seeing more than difficult laws, strange rituals, and scary skin conditions…I started seeing Jesus.

Jen Wilkin, in her new book, Women of the Word, discusses many helpful principles for how we should approach our study of the Bible.

She rightly points out the importance of understanding the “Big Story” of the Bible as we study individual books of the Bible.

“Without the bigger picture, we can only gain a partial appreciation of what any snapshot is telling us. From Genesis to Revelation the Bible is telling us about the rule and reign of God.”

Perspective is so crucial to life. It matters in singleness, marriage, in mothering.

It’s typically pretty easy to distinguish those who have perspective and those who do not. Without perspective we can quickly get lost in the loneliness, the mundane, and the trials.

Perspective changes everything.

The same is true in our study of Scripture. Without the proper context, I have gotten lost in many passages that are actually amazingly rich and deep.

Of course, this is why it’s important to read through the Old and New Testaments, to meditate on the Psalms and learn from the Prophets…because then we began to see how all of Scripture fits together and how every single book is pointing to Jesus.

When I’m reading through a difficult book, I like to have my study Bible and a good commentary handy when I get lost or confused. I also try to listen to sermons that correspond with what I am studying in Scripture. And it sure is nice having a seminary husband to ask difficult questions and share what I am learning.

This summer, Leviticus and Numbers have taught me so much about the holiness of God, the vileness of my own sin, and most of all the love of Jesus.

The sinless One, touching the unclean and making them clean.

Jesus, cleansing me.

The Gospel in Leviticus and Numbers…one of my greatest joys this summer of 2014.

 

What is the Lord teaching you through His Word this summer?

 

Luke 24:26-27:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

 

I really enjoyed this short video of Kristie Anyabwile as she shares how God used the book of Leviticus in her life.

 

A Woman of the Word

Painted in WaterlogueOne of my greatest desires, besides being a godly wife to Grant and mother to my girls, is to be a woman who knows and loves the Word of God. Without nourishment from God’s Word, my soul dries up and I cannot be the woman, much less the wife and mom or friend that God intended me to be. His Word is life. 

In Psalm 119:97, David says, “Oh how I love your law, it is my meditation all the day!”

As my daily schedule has gotten busier with a three year old and a one year old, I’ve had to figure out how to make my time with the Lord a priority while also remembering that God knows my heart and He is the One who called me to this task of motherhood.

What I’ve realized is that there is usually always time in my day to spend in His Word. It’s not always the time I would choose or as long as I would like,but God is faithful to provide the time I need even though it often means doing the next pile of laundry tomorrow or refusing to waste time doing something else.

And time with the Lord never disappoints. It’s life-giving, soul-stirring, humbling, convicting, encouraging…and with the Psalmist I find myself saying, Oh, how I love Your law!

I wanted to share here a post I wrote for True Woman on what the Lord is teaching me about making time to spend in His Word. This post is geared for moms of very little ones. Children who aren’t quite old enough be trained to quietly stay in their rooms or wait on breakfast and who still need a diaper change. I hope it encourages you!

I have also found this Bible from John MacArthur to be very helpful for keeping on track with daily Bible reading during busy times (along with my study Bible).

Lastly, I wanted to encourage you to join me for Women of the Word Month!

During the month of July, Crossway.org will be hosting Women of the Word Month—a 31-day online campaign designed to encourage women to get in the Word and stay in the Word during the busy days of summer.

Timed with the publication of two important new resources from Crossway—Women of the Word by Jen Wilkin and the ESV Women’s Devotional Bible—the campaign will feature a daily email devotional, as well as practical blog posts and weekly video interviews with gifted Bible teachers. Contributors include Jen Wilkin, Kathy Keller, Elyse Fitzpatrick, Gloria Furman, Paul David Tripp, Kristyn Getty, and more.

(via CBMWKaris)

 

If you are looking for some helpful ways to get in the Word and stay in the Word this summer, sign up and read more about it here. 

Refreshing the Heart (for mothers)

10359490_684110944995510_6110077445047188887_nMy mom is teaching a conference today: Refreshing the Heart (for mothers).

When it comes to mothering, my heart always welcomes refreshment!

And the only true refreshment comes from God’s Word, which I know my mom will be faithfully teaching today.

I wish I could be there but I am thankful that technology allows me to watch it from right where I am.

Here is the schedule:

1st session (9am EST): Refreshing Our Perspective

2nd session: Captivating Their Hearts

(Coffee break – screen will be blank during this time)

3rd session: Receiving His Blessing (and dealing with our mistakes)

4th session: Walking with Him, Faith in the Everyday Moments

(Sessions will end at lunch).

Watch LIVE http://www.cbcofbeaufort.org

 

Our weekly radio program, Mothering from the Heart, is on break for the summer. You can “like” the Mothering from the Heart Facebook page for frequent updates and information regarding when we will be back live again. 

Some #Good News

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CBMW and Desiring God have teamed up to provide a new ebook {Good}, available for FREE download here.

After God’s creation recorded in the book of Genesis, He used one word to describe His glorious handiwork, “good.”

And that is just what God’s design for male and female is . . .nothing short of good.

Grant and I were excited to contribute a chapter on purity.

Don’t miss John Piper’s beautiful foreword. It’s an encouraging read for my generation.

Christian complementarity is the conviction that God created men and women as his image-bearers — equal in dignity and distinct in role.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Scripture’s distinctive roles for men and women are not the cultural fads of a bygone era, but integral aspects of God’s good design for humanity, and therefore integral aspects toward humanity’s end — to glorify God by enjoying him forever.

 

 

 

CBMW Conference Videos

Image For those of you who appreciate the ministry of The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood, the videos of the entire conference are now available on CBMW’s website! I am very grateful for this organization and I hope you will find these videos encouraging and clarifying to your own understanding of manhood and womanhood. Here are a few words regarding the conference from CBMW’s Executive Director, Owen Strachan:

We recently held our first CBMW National Conference in conjunction with the 2014 Together for the Gospel conference. We wanted to present an event that would be gospel-focused, positive, and exciting.

These were our starting points, but we honestly didn’t know what to expect. We thought that we might have 500 people. Then people started signing up, and kept signing up. So we went back to the book publishers that were among our event sponsors and asked them to greatly increase the amount of books that they were giving, and they did. Then even more people signed up, so we went back to the publishers one more time, and they were gracious to give even more books. Finally the day of the conference came, and God brought close to 1,500 people. We sold every single seat and then several dozen “standing room only” seats. Wow!

We decided that we would feature an unusual format for these talks. They would be short, sharp, and “TED”-like, long enough to argue a point, but short enough to progress through an extremely gifted platform of speakers in a short amount of time. We hope these videos will not only enrich your life, but that you share them with many others as well (feel free to host 1-2 on your site and direct folks to this page for the full treasure trove). Thanks again for your interest.

Please note, by the way, that we are able to make this content available for free thanks to the generous gift of complementarian churches, organizations, and individuals. We would love your support of our ongoing work to provide gospel-driven resources to God’s people.

Also: keep your eyes peeled for an upcoming eBook we at CBMW are doing with the good folks at Desiring God Ministries. We’re really, really excited about this project!

IMG_5807I moderated a women’s panel at the conference and had the privilege of hearing first hand from Candice Watters, Kristie Anyabwile, Melissa Kruger, Trillia Newbell, and Jodi Ware. I have included our panel discussion below. You can find the remaining talks given by Dr. Ligon Duncan, Dr. Russell Moore, Kevin DeYoung, Eric Mason, Dr. John Piper, Dr. Danny Akin, Dr. Albert Mohler, and Dr. David Platt here.    

A Few Book “Reviews”

I had lofty goals of writing lengthy book reviews on this site – both to help my own retention and encourage others as well.

I’ve realized, however, that in my particular season of life, if I spend time writing lengthy reviews I won’t have time to finish the books I am currently reading!

Instead, I’m going to try to share the titles of books I’ve recently read, gleaned much from, and think others may enjoy as well!

ImageThis book. If you are a female, get your hands on a copy of this book! It was just released and I read it in one sitting. Yes, it was a very long sitting, but that’s how wonderful this book is. Your soul will be nourished. Your heart encouraged and yes, convicted. This will definitely be one of those books I will recommend over and over again and reread in the future.

Be Still My Soul. If you are going through a trial, this book will encourage your soul greatly. Elisabeth Elliot’s wisdom is timeless – and that’s because it is rooted in God’s Word. The biggest takeaway I  had from this book is how the shortcut to peace is acceptance of God’s will. Even if you aren’t going through a hard time, I think this book will encourage you, but especially if you are, it will be like water in a dry place.

Instructing a Child’s Heart. This is one of those books I’ve had laying around our place forever but never actually cracked it open to read it. I finally read it last month in conjunction with a parenting class I was taking at Southern Seminary. I really enjoy a book that is packed with Scripture, and this one is.

I’m in the middle of a couple other books and once I finish them I will probably post those as well.

IMG_5175But these last two books are just for fun! I just discovered the wonderful rhyming goodness of Little Blue Truck and Little Blue Truck Leads the Way. Even though I have girls, these are already favorites (for them and me!). And we are just ever so slightly entering the world of Bill Peet. AudreyKate is still a little young for these books, but I read as long as she will last! I know I’m overly entertained by the personification of inanimate objects and animals.

Hope these titles encourage you.

What are some of your favorite children’s books?