one perfect life: no filter needed

In our social media culture, where many have developed platforms that project an airbrushed life, it can sometimes be difficult for us as women to embrace our ordinary lives. Our unfiltered lives. I think this is especially true for us mothers, where so much of our lives isn’t neat and orderly and put together because we are in the midst of raising children. As the Proverb aptly says, “Where no oxen are the manger is clean” (Proverbs 14:4).

I love a good filtered image as much as the next person. One that doesn’t alter the image but helps bring its color to life. Because there is something about snapping a photo that never quite captures the essence of the moment if you know what I mean? Take a picture of a sunset, and it never looks quite the same from an iPhone. But adding a filter brings back some of its beauty. It can add in some of that glowy goodness that cannot always be translated from real life into a still image.

But at the same time, I’ve gotten weary of seeing filtered, touched up, and perfected images online. Because sometimes it just looks too filtered. It looks too colorful. Too perfect. It’s not the precise reality of who we are before God.

Because life isn’t lived with a filter on it. When my kids are running around the kitchen and there is spilled chocolate milk, bedhead, and I’m making pancakes in my pajamas, there’s really no filter that even could make that moment look perfect in a picture.

But on a spiritual level, there’s no filter that can cover up those daily moments of sin in our home. The bickering between siblings, the frustration present in my own heart over this or that, the selfishness that often arises in all our hearts as we live and move and breath together in the same space day after day.

This is why I am just so thankful to know Christ! Because I don’t have to pretend moments of sin or trials don’t exist in our home. I can look my unfiltered life in the face, head on. What I mean by that is, I don’t have to cover up life’s difficulties or only find happiness in my “perfect” moments. But I can find joy even in the face of life’s challenges and daily trials because of Christ.

One of the things the Old Testament teaches us is that atonement must be made for sin. This was the reason for the entire sacrificial system. We learn in the New Testament that the sacrifices of bulls and goats all pointed forward to and were fulfilled in the death of the Lord Jesus Christ (Hebrews 10:4-5). There is only one thing that can cover the sin in my heart: the blood of Christ.

Instead of brushing over all my unfiltered moments, I accept them as God ordained moments. God put me here in this moment to teach my kids what forgiveness looks like. When my kids are bickering, instead of wishing away that moment, I can put down the laundry, and face head on what’s happening.

This is the beautiful thing about Christianity ~ a permanent atonement has been made in Jesus Christ in which we have the forgiveness of sins!

There were no filtered moments in His life. Jesus daily took up his cross. He touched the leprous and the sick. Yet, he truly was perfect. He needed no filters. No pretense of perfection. He fulfilled all righteousness (Matthew 3:15). A few years ago, a harmony of the four gospels was published. A harmony is a work that weaves the four gospels together chronologically in the order that the events and teachings of Christ’s life occurred. The harmony was aptly titled One Perfect Life. That helpfully sums up Jesus’s entire life and ministry. It was ‘one perfect life.’ He owned very little and the Scripture says He didn’t even have a place to lay his head that was his own (Luke 9:58). I cannot begin to imagine what it was like for Him to deny Himself daily and then one day take up His cross. But in all of it, He brought us forgiveness in Christ. Because of His perfect life, I understand that mine isn’t. And through His death and resurrection I have hope! The greatest hope I have ever known and my heart overflows with joy!

I have a framework for brokenness and sin in this world. I understand that I am a sinner and that my children are sinners and desperately need God. I understand that what we need most is God’s forgiveness and His gift of righteousness, not our own. I don’t want anything to cloud my understanding of this glorious truth!

There is no filter needed for a child who slides a note under my door that says, “Mom, I am sooo sooo sooo sorry, will you forgive me?” No filter needed for the giant smile that covers my child’s face after they have repented and found forgiveness. No filter needed when I creep into my child’s bedroom after the lights are out and tell her I am sorry for the way I snapped at her. No filter needed when my husband texts me back, “I forgive you. I love you so much. You are doing a great job.” There is no filter needed because there is One who lived a perfect life already. Because of Him, I can embrace my unfiltered moments and see incredible beauty. A real and raw beauty. Redemption. Sanctification. I can find joy in all my moments not because I’m looking through a filter, but because God has opened my eyes to the truth and “ In your light do we see light” (Psalm 36:9).

The God of No Limits

Months ago, back when the pandemic was just beginning, we visited my parents (a few days before states shut down! Remember that?!).

After a full day, one of my kids was struggling. Struggling with attitude and tears and everything just seemed difficult. My mom pulled her into her lap and told her that everything was OK. “We all have limits,” she told my girl. “God is the only one who doesn’t. And it’s important for us to understand that. And,” she added, “things always seem more difficult when you’re tired.”

I’ve thought about that little conversation so often as we have faced the months since and the pandemic swept our country. God has used those words from my mom to my child to remind me of an ever important truth that continues to sustain me.

The God of No Limits

“The God of no limits” is a phrase I’ve repeated to myself often these past six months. I’ve reminded myself of it when I’m folding laundry or when my children all need something different from me and I’m not sure exactly what to give. I’ve reminded myself of it when I read the news or feel the weight of how different things have seemed this year.

And here is the honest truth: I am a woman of limits.

I get weary. I stumble. I run dry.

But the amazing truth is that I don’t have to conjure up the answers. I don’t have to escape reality or constantly remind myself of how self sufficient I am or believe in myself to get through.

I have a Savior. A heavenly Father who has no limits. He never has a bad day or even a bad moment!

Psalm 121 says:

I will lift my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps Israel will not slumber or sleep.

Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber or sleep.

The Lord is your keeper;

The Lord is your shade on you right hand.

This world may be tumultuous, but the Christian has a Keeper.

Jesus slept on a boat in the midst of the storm because He knew the world was upheld by His Father.

I can sleep, because I have a God who doesn’t. I can trust because I have a God has ordained every event. I can come to Him empty and He fills me up.

When I acknowledge my limits, I am in good company, for this is how the saints of old gained their strength.

They lifted their eyes to the mountains. To the One who formed the heavens and the earth with a word. Like a weary child they knew just where to turn ~ they lifted their eyes to the God of no limits.

Do you not know? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth does not become weary or tired. His understanding is inscrutable. He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power.

Rare but Real

It has been way too long since I posted here! I’ve had so many things I’ve wanted to write about, but they haven’t gotten from my head to paper!

But I have been wanting to share a conference that my sisters-in-law and I had the privilege of speaking at in September.

The conference is entitled, “Rare but Real” and in these days, I can’t think of many things more important than being a woman of the Word (which is rare) and being real (walking humbly and openly before the Lord).

I share about what being a rare but real woman looks like in everyday life. My sister-in-law, Maureen, shares what it looks like to walk through the most heartbreaking trials of life. My sister-in-law Chesed shares on walking joyfully right where God has you! We ended the evening with a Q & A time with my mom!

I would love to hear how God is working in your life this year and I hope these talks encourage you!

The Lord’s Day: A Delight For Our Children

IMG_0018When I was a little girl, my favorite day of the week was Sunday. This was for several reasons that I remember in my childhood mind. For one thing, Saturday was a day full of chores. I can remember many a Saturday, cleaning away the bathrooms, while wistfully looking forward to the next day when my parents never expected me to do any chores.

Sunday was also a day free of schoolwork. I didn’t have to write in my journal that same phrase I wrote daily, “I can’t wait to finish school so I can play outside.” But then there was also the fun of putting on my best clothes, going to church, and usually eating a delicious lunch, typically a nicer one than we had any other day of the week. The afternoon was filled with being in the outdoors, sometimes watching a family movie, or playing with special activities reserved just for Sundays.


Now, as my own family is quarantined at home, I have found myself thinking deeper about what sets the Lord’s Day apart for us. For now, gone is the aspect of getting dressed and going to church to worship with God’s people. And because of that void in our lives, it’s causing me to think of other ways our family sets the Lord’s Day apart. I want to think hard now, so that when this quarantine time is over, I will be selective about the routines we add back into our lives and continue ones we started.


When my children are grown and look back on the Lord’s Day in our home, I want them to have the best memories. I don’t want them to remember it as a boring day, but a day they looked forward to all week long. And even now, at their young ages, I would love for them to say that the Lord’s Day is their favorite day of the week.

Grant and I are seeking to teach our children that The Lord’s Day is special—not only because it’s the day that the church gathers in worship and adoration of God— but it’s a day to be treasured because Christ is our treasure. Not only is it a day to worship and rest, but a day to be reminded that God loves and delights in us, His children.

I will never forget a couple years ago when our children were younger and Grant and I were talking with some friends after the church service. Our children started running and playing tag in the foyer. I quickly pulled our kids aside and began correcting them for running inside. Grant came up and whispered in my ear, “GraceAnna, this is a happy place and I want them always to remember that church is a happy place. Let them run since the church is basically empty now.

A happy place. A happy day. A day to be treasured and be reminded of God’s love. A day to rest. One day out of seven that is different. Worship, as Grant has been teaching the kids this week, is Coram Deo, “before the face of God.” It’s living a godward life and seeking to honor the Lord in all that we do. Sunday is a day to reset in our worship. And rest is a change in our occupation. A pause on what we normally do, our usual labors

As I seek to set rhythms in our home, those principles for the Lord’s Day are my guide: joyful worship and rest. I want my children to have special memories of the day as we focus our hearts on the Lord and experience His goodness.

I want to encourage you to think about the rhythms of your own home and seek to make the Lord’s Day the most special day of the week for your family.

The Lord’s Day shouldn’t be filled with drudgery, it is a gift! Grant and I came up with the following ideas for our own family, and I would love to hear some of your ideas too!


  • More chores on Saturday. I’m sure our kids won’t appreciate this one much, but we want Saturday to be a day where we do extra so that the Lord’s Day truly can be one of rest. If you have young children, you know how difficult it can be to keep a house picked up! Training our children to join in the responsibility is not only helpful to us as parents, but teaches them the value of hard work. If Saturday is a day of play all day, then it may end up being their favorite day of the week and Sunday afternoon may end up being filled with leftover chores that didn’t get completed before the start of school on Monday. We want our children to associate the joy of Sunday with a rest from their usual chores just as God set the example for us by resting on the seventh day.


  • Cocoa pebbles and Captain Crunch for breakfast on Sundays. Okay, this may seem like a funny one! But the Castleberry kids love some sugar cereal! They would eat them 7 days a week. But for now, we’ve reserved these special ones for breakfast for the Lord’s Day. They can’t wait for Sunday to eat their cocoa pebbles! I also heard of another family in our church who had “Sunday Sundaes” as a family when their children were young.


  • A Sunday box/treasure chest. Grant and I are just beginning this tradition. This is one my parents did for a period of time when my brothers and I were younger and comes from H. Clay Trumbull’s book, Hints on Child Training(Trumbull was Elisabeth Elliot’s great grandfather. You can purchase the book from several retailers but there is also a free PDF version).  On Easter, Grant and I began the Lord’s Day treasure box.  It’s filled with special toys and activities that our children can play with just on Sundays. We want them to look forward to playing with this all week. We are slowly building this collection, but we hope this will be a tradition they always remember. These are special activities only for the Lord’s Day. When Sunday is over, the toys are put back in the “Sunday box.” For some families, this may mean cutting back on indulgences they give their kids during the week. Maybe instead of gifting their child a special toy on a Wednesday, they reserve it for the Sunday box. I will share a peek into our current treasure box, but I think what this looks like will differ depending on the ages of your children/your budget, etc. I am trying to slowly build our box with new items as well as put some forgotten toys inside and family games.




  • No chores for mom and dad on Sunday. For me, housework is what I do 6 days a week, so besides a little general upkeep on Sunday, I want to be available to play with my kids freely or sit on the porch and talk with Grant. Rest looks different for everyone. Maybe mowing the grass brings you great joy and rest on a Sunday. But I think the point is setting rhythms of rest and activities that help your heart worship the Lord.


  • Family walks ~ this is something we try to do a lot anyway, but the freed up time on Sunday gives us more time to do this!


The Lord’s Day is to be treasured because Christ is our treasure. Therefore, we should teach our children to treasure it.


I will leave you with a quote from C.H. Trumball’s book on the sabbath ~


“Where the [Pg 153] Lord’s day is counted a dismal one by the children, it is obvious that the parents have failed to train their children to hallow that day, as the day which is peculiarly sacred to the love of their loving Father in heaven. Whether at home, or at Sunday-school or any other church service, the children should be helped to realize that the day is a day of brightness and of cheer; that while differing in its occupations and enjoyments from all other days, it is the best of them all. When a little boy, out of a home thus ordered, heard one of his companions express, on Sunday, a wish that it was already Monday, the little fellow said, with evident heartiness, “Why! don’t you like Sunday? I like it best of all the days.” And so it ought to be in the case of every boy and girl in a Christian home.”



satisfaction for the thirsty soul

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetLast week, Grant and I moved halfway across the country from Kentucky to Texas. It’s a move we’ve been planning for the past few months, but still, no matter how much you prepare, there is nothing like actually moving ~ saying goodbye to the places you’ve known and starting fresh all over again. One of the things I have been praying about is how the move would affect our three children. I have wondered if they would miss their old home and friends, if they would cry like I did when I was four and a half and moved from Texas to South Carolina.


I was telling a friend this morning just how surprised I’ve been by their stability through the move. Besides having some breakdowns from exhaustion, they’ve been eager and excited for our new home in Texas. AudreyKate even hugged me and said, “Mom, my home is wherever you and Daddy are.”


While I was watching the kids play in the pool yesterday I remembered that quiet security I also enjoyed as a child. Home was the little brick house on Bond Street, the rental in Catherine Court, or our home in Seabrook. My soul was satisfied and content in that reality and it was enough.


Not everyone experiences that kind of security as a child. And even the most secure children grow up and leave home. But in Scripture we see over and over again that God wants His children to have that kind of security.


In Psalm 17, the Psalmist gives a statement of satisfaction that I have been reflecting on the past couple of days. He says this:


Men of the world, whose portion is in this life,

Whose belly you fill with your treasure;

They are satisfied with children,

And leave their abundance to babes.

As for me, I shall behold your face in righteousness;

I will be satisfied with your likeness when I awake.


This passage is pretty straightforward. Those who don’t know the Lord, they find their satisfaction here. Four walls, a roof, a good job, and material success. Providing for their children is enough for them.


But the righteous longs for something much, much, more.


They know that this world is broken. That life is a vapor. That what our souls need most isn’t food or job security, but more of the Lord.


As a mom in the middle of a move, this passage hit home for me in a couple ways.


First, I am reminded of the joy I receive from mothering my children. I just love being my kids’ mom. No matter where we are I often just treasure the gift of being with them.


But secondly, we also have hard days and moments. My kids aren’t perfect and neither am I. My children bring me great satisfaction but it is not enough. I need something more. My heart needs more. I often find myself tired and at the end of myself.


I need a satisfaction that doesn’t depend on my children’s obedience or my feelings. I need a stability and a security like a little child moving across the country but knowing mom and dad are still there.


And that’s what God wants to be for me. That’s what He wants to be for those who know Him. The joy of His presence and the knowledge of our security in Him is something He wants us to delight in wherever we are and whatever we are walking through. He whispers it to us through His Word ~ that He’s not just there in the green pastures, but in the dry places too.


Isaian 58:11 says


And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.


I never want the things in this life to be enough for me. And that’s why it is okay to not be okay because whatever God has given you in this life isn’ supposed to be enough for you, only He is enough for you. 


You can take joy and delight in your children because your satisfaction doesn’t begin or end in them. Your home is the walls and roof and God has given you but your true home in Him, your Father, and He will never ever leave you.


There is only one well, and his name is Jesus. And when I run to Him as my river of delights, I find that like I child I am satisfied and at home wherever I am because my Father is there.


For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good.


worth all the crumbs

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset“There are crumbs everywhere!” I texted my friend Amy one morning last week. We had been texting and sharing our current Bible study routines: what we are reading, what God is teaching us, and how we are fitting it in to our lives.

That morning I hadn’t gotten up as early as I would have liked, so I gave my kids a couple packets of breakfast crackers to eat in their room while they “read” books. It’s normally not my practice to allow snacks in the bedrooms, but I needed a few more minutes alone to pray and let God’s Word speak to my heart.

I don’t just want that time each day in God’s Word. I need that time.  I need His strength and His Word. His Word is so deep I always feel like I am barely scratching the surface and yet I know Him better through it. It helps me see my sin and brings me back to His grace over and over again. I want to make His Word more of a priority in my life than I do and I wish I could say that I always chose time with Him above other things.

I texted Amy a picture of my Bible with a quote from Charles Spurgeon that said, “Where there is heaven in the heart there will be heaven in the house.” I had been reading Psalm 37 and studying Spurgeon’s commentary on the Psalm.

As I was closing my Bible and beginning to fix the kids a real breakfast my phone dinged again, “I love that quote. WORTH ALL THE CRUMBS!” she texted back.

FullSizeRender-4I smiled and thought, she is so right. I hadn’t thought about that quote in relation to my home. But it’s so true, God’s word is always worth it. It’s worth washing the sheets later or hauling the vacuum in. It’s worth missing a workout or getting dinner on the table a few minutes later. It’s worth getting up extra early or staying up a little later.

God’s Word is always worth it because your heart is worth it.

Proverbs 4:23 says, “Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life.”

As moms we are often encouraged to have our “me” time, our alone time, our “pamper” time. Or sometimes it’s the expectations we put on ourselves. We want to have it together. We want to do things well, as we should.

But we should never quit guarding our hearts. The Bible says that the heart is like a storehouse (Luke 6:45). It treasures things up. It’s the place the mouth speaks from.

For every person, the heart must be guarded. And as mothers, we care for our children out of our hearts, or what’s left of it. Maybe we are mothering from a weary and anxious heart, a broken heart, or an angry heart. Or maybe we feel like our heart is failing us completely like the Psalmist says in Psalm 73:26.

That is why we must run to Him every single day with our whole heart. Not because we are just trying to “make God a priority,” but because we desperately need Him. Because it’s worth it. And because as Christian mothers we know that our hearts are what set the tone for our homes more than anything else.

Tidy rooms, well-dressed children, dinner on the table right on time, those are all well and good but what are they compared to your heart?

God values it so much He told Martha “only one thing is necessary” (Luke 10:42).


God does not ask us to do it all but He does ask us one thing, “Give me your heart, my daughter, and let your eyes delight in my ways.”

I promise you, it’s worth all the crumbs.




*Proverbs 23:26, daughter added


freeing yourself from picture perfect motherhood in an Instagram world

I love being a mom. I love it. I love seeing my friends post on Instagram their joys of motherhood: The baby snuggles, the matching outfits, the days at the zoo, the budget friendly design spaces, and even the messes too. All the little moments they deem “Instagram worthy”.

As much as I enjoy it, there have been times when I have taken a step back from social media for various reasons. At times because I thought it was distracting me, overwhelming me, or I was just too busy.

But through my own journey in this digital age, I have never wanted to be quick to condemn social media just because it sometimes brings out something in me that I don’t like.

I never ever want to miss that there is something to be celebrated about what can sometimes appear to be picture perfect motherhood.

For there is an element of God’s common grace in joyful social media posts.

That mothers around the world find facets of enjoyment in being a mother is a beautiful thing.  Whether it is in a silly face, the first day of school, figuring out how to double French braid or sharing that special thing she did with her kids – that is something to rejoice in.

James 1:17 says:

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.”

It is the mark of an others focused person to affirm and embrace not only the fullness of motherhood that God has given you, but the fullness He has also given other mothers.

But there is an emptiness we can feel in motherhood too. I know I have felt it at times. Especially in this digital age where pictures are often staged and perceptions can be skewed. And there is just no way around how images or posts can often make us feel. Because while motherhood is full, it can also be empty.

When all you see is picture perfect, and you are struggling with something, sometimes the easiest thing is to try to bury those feelings or harbor bitterness towards those who have what you don’t.

But what if instead of wallowing in our own emptiness or begrudging others for the good gifts God has given them, what if we stared our emptiness in the face?

What is your emptiness? What is the thing that hurts?

Maybe it’s seeing the mom snuggling her baby which only reminds you of the babies you have lost. Maybe it’s the home you will never have or the toys or baby gear you cannot afford. Or maybe it’s the family vacations that “get you,” or the household orderliness. Or maybe it’s all the things you feel you cannot be. You don’t want to feel this way, but you do. So what do you do?

Do you run away? Do you lash out? Do you stuff it down? Do you miss out on rejoicing with someone else?

As mothers in Christ we must do one thing. We must face it. We must face our empty. We must face the darkness in us.

For it is in our weakness – our emptiness – our nothingness – that God changes us so that He can use us for His purposes.

It is in the moments of the “have nots” that we rediscover all that we have in Him.

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.” – 2 Cor 12:19

But how can we find the strength to do this? And this is what I have found to be so very helpful: We can embrace the darkness because Christ already did it for us. He suffered for us. He went to the cross for us.

And because of that, we are children of light who do not have to dwell in the darkness. We don’t have to be slaves to our selfish desires or our feelings.

Galatians 5:1 says that Christ has set us free.

While we still struggle with our sinful nature, we do not have to be enslaved to it because our darkness is overshadowed by His glory. We are “being transformed into the same image from glory to glory.” As we focus on Christ and His Word instead of ourselves, He does a work in our hearts, making us more like Him. He sheds His light in the dark parts of us and gives us a joy in Him and a genuine love for others.

Sometimes I wonder how Mary was able to stand at the cross. How was she able to stare the darkness in the face as she watched her Son die? Maybe because she knew He was going to conquer it. Maybe because she remembered what the angel Gabriel had spoken and what the prophets had said. Maybe she believed in the darkness that He was going to make it all better.

And so we stand as mothers who are in Christ. We thank God for our joys in light of His grace and we face our darkness knowing God is molding us and shaping us in the light of His glory. For now we see dimly, but soon we shall see face to face.

“For You light my lamp; The Lord my God illumines my darkness.” Psalm 18:28

Because it is there He wants to meet us. It is that place He is touching and wants to heal. It is His strength He is offering. There in the darkness, we find Him, where we never thought we would. And we realize that social media, or whatever it is, is just another tool God is using to change us. For we are far from picture perfect mothers and we should never try to fit that label. For Christ has set us free, and we are free indeed.

The Gift in the Goodbye

I lay awake in bed last night thinking about how my oldest just lost her first tooth. I was thinking about it because I hadn’t been thinking about it. I’d barely given it a passing thought when it started wiggling a few weeks back. Things had been busy. I was excited for her though and thought, “How is she old enough for this?” That was all.

But then yesterday, I enjoyed the toothless grin of my five-year-old going on (ever so quickly) six-years-old. And when I lay down to sleep, I thought about that little tooth.

She had been so cranky when it was cutting through when she was just a few months old. But the thing was, I was new at mothering and had no idea that was what was going on. She was fussy. Constantly. I tried everything. One day I put her in the sling and walked four miles in the neighborhood just to keep her from crying. It worked for her but failed to stop my own tears. Then, at just four months, she woke up with a tooth.

Oh. Well that makes sense. My newborn was now an infant. A new stage. And we had made it there together.

Each new stage of motherhood is like that, isn’t it? Sometimes it’s a struggle and yet it arrives either way. And each new stage is a bidding of farewell to something else. In this is both the sorrow and the joy. But each new stage is a gift that couldn’t be received without saying goodbye.

As sentimental as motherhood can be, our children need us to cherish them as they are now as much as we did with their chubby baby cheeks.

And we must not believe that we’ve truly lost something in this. For the love we poured into them then has brought them to this place today.

That happy toothless grin was wrought by both our tears.

But we also must not try to stuff down the pangs of sadness that come with the passing of each stage. There is a deep pain that comes with motherhood that no matter how hard we try we cannot get around. It is part of it. And the embracing of it allows us to experience a deep joy and believe that God is doing something.

Rachel must have felt sorrow as she was slipping out of this life just as her little boy Benjamin was born. We know Jochebed must have felt it when she pushed Moses out into the bulrushes. Out of her control. Out of her hands. Hannah felt it when she let go of her little boy’s hand as she gave him to Eli the priest. Or Mary, we know how that sword pierced her heart from the very beginning unto the end.

Even though our lives differ greatly from these women, surely God gave their stories to help us.

This world. Oh this broken world where we are not even promised tomorrow with our children.

And then the tiny pangs as we watch them grow up right before our eyes. Their babyhood slipping away. So many goodbyes.

But in order for God to use us and them, we must seek the joy in the sorrow. They are intricately interwoven. But joy must win. And it can win because the God we trust made all things right when He let His own Son go. He gave us the most precious Gift in the greatest of all goodbyes. We cannot even identify with the pain the Father felt in turning His back on his Son. But Mary, she was a mother. We can close our eyes and imagine her pain even if we cannot know its fullness.

And we remember how God took care of Rachel’s boys ~ Joseph and Benjamin. God never left them alone. When Jochebed trusted God with her baby in the basket, a nation was brought out of slavery. God used Samuel to bring great repentance to His people and victory over enemies. But what if they hadn’t let go? And that is just the amazing thing. We don’t have to just let go. For Rachel, Jochebed, Hannah, and Mary, they didn’t just let go, they gave them to God in their letting go.

And that is what we must do. As we say goodbye and we feel the pangs of years slipping away, we give our children to God. We give our tears to Him. We are holding on as we let go. We trust the One who created us and our children in the first place.

As mothers who have put their hope in Christ we have a joy in each passing season because we have a Savior.

We don’t know how God will use our children. They may live a quiet life. They may lead a hard life. They may be in the shadows. They may be in the spotlight.

But one thing for sure, we can trust that all the tiny goodbyes along the way are preparing our children for the life God has for them. God uses our tears and trust to build their futures. I don’t know how it all works but that is the amazing thing about God.

The God who spoke the world into existence knows the number of our days. He is growing us up just as He grows them. And He is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory where there are no goodbyes. No more sorrow. No more death. And that is what makes the joy so very great ~ our hope is in Him. And He is the One who can enable us to cherish the gift in every goodbye.


Ephesians 3:14-21 

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.

Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen

Dream Big, My Darling Daughters


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.

Unseen Footprints 

I sat across from Grant at a corner booth in a steak restaurant in Singapore.

He had been my husband six months, but we’d already been separated for two. It had been hard. Not just because we were newly married and living on opposite sides of the world, but because of the fear in my heart.

And now, we were together for just a couple days. This South Carolina girl had boarded a plane and flown to the other side of the world, flagged a taxi at the airport, and arrived at a hotel to wait for my husband to dock and meet me. My feet had been so swollen from the over 24-hour journey, I had to retrieve flip-flops from my bag at the airport.

I was already doing things I never imagined I would. And now, I had two full days with him before he had to get back on that navy ship and sail back into the vast expanse of the Indian Ocean.

I held his hand as my steak sat going cold, “Grant, I just can’t. I can’t. I love you too much to let you go back.”

I was new at this marriage thing and this Marine Corps thing and I loved him so much. We had only been together all of 23 days during our long-distance dating and engagement. We didn’t have time like most couples do. And now, this is what our marriage was like. Deployment. We knew it was coming and we had decided to get married anyway. And it was worth it. But the ache was deep.

I loved him but I couldn’t keep him. I had to let him go. Again. I couldn’t control what happened out there in that ocean. Nothing should happen but anything could happen. The Navy and Marines would sail and be ready in case of a national disaster.

Please, Lord, no disasters.

As the tears streamed down my face, Grant squeezed my hand. “GraceAnna, you have to give me to the Lord. You have to trust Him. You have to love Him more than you love me.”

That, of course, had been the theme of our relationship from the beginning. Grant had told me just a few weeks into our dating relationship that he held me with an open hand to God.

I didn’t like that, exactly. It didn’t feel secure. I wanted to be held clenched in his fist, close to his heart. Not open and laid bare.

But I found that as soon as I held Grant too close, even then, my world began to spin. Those had been uncertain days when we had first started dating. I was putting my heart out there to a Marine who I had exchanged a brief “hello” with in high school. And we were dating from different sides of the world.

It was a strange thing, the more I handed my heart to the Lord, the stronger I felt.

I didn’t know that the hard lessons I was learning in those early days and in that steak restaurant in Singapore would be the ones I would keep going back to over and over again.

I wanted it to be over. I wanted Grant back. I wanted to have a home. I wanted security.

In Psalm 131, David tells the story of a child’s first great sorrow in life. He is denied what he so desperately longs for, his mother’s milk. His mother has been his solace and comfort from his first breath, and now she denies him the very thing that has made him feel secure and loved.

As a mom who has weaned three babies, I know this battle. My son, especially, I struggled with weaning him. He didn’t like it and neither did I.

The process felt cruel even though I knew it was exactly what he needed.

Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me. (131:2)

There is sorrow until the child quits fighting, and instead of being angry, buries his head in his mother’s chest in sweet relief.

The child finds his comfort when he quits fighting for what he thinks he needs.

And there is a contentment there, when the fight is over, and the child trusts his mother and realizes he is weaned on her but is not weaned from her.

What lessons I have learned from this child. So often, I want to cling tightly to what I think I need or can hold on to. I want to hold so tightly to my husband. I want to protect my children. I want to order my life in the way I think it should go. I want to shield those I love from every heartache.

When I cling so tightly in my own strength, my soul is not at rest. I am full of fear. I feel the vast ocean showing me all the things that are out of my control.

But when I quit fighting, and look to Him, I find that He is right there with me in the storm.

“Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters, yet your footprints were unseen. Yet you lead your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron (Psalm 77:10).”

God didn’t lead the children through green pastures to get to green pastures. He led them through the Red Sea. There were things they wanted to go around, yet He led them through them showing them every step of the way that He was there. In the day, there was the cloud, and in the night there was the fire. He was there. Always there.

And God often leads his people this way. The waters in Scripture often refer to uncertainty, chaos, and death. I can hardly imagine what Jocabed felt when she placed her darling boy into the waters in only a wicker basket. God saved her boy but she had to give him up to the waters.

Job, didn’t understand the trials God was bringing Him through but said in faith, “He knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I will come forth as gold (job 23:10).

There are times when we feel like God is withholding something good from us, like a child feels when his mother is weaning him, but when we trust Him, we understand that He is holding us and caring for us all the way.

He is faithfully leading us like a shepherd leads his flock. And He will bring us through.

This past month and a half, I have felt some of the deepest painI have ever known as my sweet and precious niece went home to be with the Lord.

A song that has brought me much comfort and was played in church the Sunday she went to be with Jesus says this:

Never once did we ever walk alone
Never once did You leave us on our own
You are faithful, God, You are faithful.

C.H. Spurgeon in a sermon he gave on happiness said this, “The Christian trusts him where he cannot trace him, looks up to him in the darkest hour and believes that all is well.”

All is well. Not because the waters aren’t there, but because He is there in the midst of them.

I wasn’t very good at bidding farewell to Grant that day when he set sail. And that was just the beginning.

But I know this. No matter what, God never leaves His children alone. There is no night too dark, no valley too deep, and no mountain too high. He is there. He will bring us through.

And in this my heart finds peace.

O Israel, hope in the Lord from this time forth and forevermore. Ps 131:3