A father’s love

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

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

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

“What’s wrong? What happened?”

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

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


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

“Grant! What did you do?!”

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh GRANT!” 

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

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

Oh Grant

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

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

He would do whatever it took.

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

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

I really am telling the truth!

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

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

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

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

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

He’s all violence and judgment.

All jagged. No love. 

They see the laws. Unclean. Unclean. Unclean.

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

I miss Jesus there. 

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

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

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

We are unexplicably touched by Him.

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

So much wrath and so. much. love.

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

The nails. The cross. The thorns.

The love. The forgiveness. The glory.

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

We once were lost but now we are found. 

Because He loves us. 

Oh how He loves us. 

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

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

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Before You Were Born

Processed with VSCOcam with x1 presetToday I share over at the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission regarding the sanctity of human life. I tell a little bit of what my mom went through when she was pregnant with me, the meaning behind my name, and God’s grace in preserving my life. God has used the faith of my parents and His gracious care for me before I was born, to help shape the way I view life in the womb.

I hope it’s an encouragement to you.

You can read it here:

Before You Were Born

a letter, a song, and a story that keeps being told

photo-98Last September, I shared about the significance of the song, It Is Well With My Soul, in our family’s life. So I shouldn’t have been surprised today when I got a phone call from Grant, telling me the church he attended (Cornerstone Baptist Church) sang It Is Well during the worship service this morning. He was in Detroit for the weekend and today is the Sunday following the anniversary of his dad’s death (27 years ago). I also shouldn’t have been surprised when Grant’s mom, Susan, sent us a text late last night telling us they had sung it in church in Texas. Every year, around the anniversary of Grant’s dad’s death, It Is Well is sung in church. And every year, it takes me by surprise. Today, the Lord showed us once again that he is a Father to the fatherless, He never forgets, and that no matter where we are, He is there.

“A father to the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation.” – Psalm 68:5

Here is what I wrote last September:

it is well

It was August of 1986. The words above were the opening line of the last letter Grant’s dad, Kelly, wrote to his wife, Susan. It was just a couple weeks before his tragic plane crash. Kelly wrote the letter from California while attending a Marine Corps training exercise. When Grant’s mom read Kelly’s letter, she thought it unusual that he started the letter with the words to a hymn but for some reason she tucked the letter in a safe place, not fully knowing how much she would come to treasure it. After Kelly’s death, Susan clung to Kelly’s words in her grief, knowing that Kelly’s soul was with the Lord.

It was as if Kelly knew she would need to read those words one day. And when Kelly’s body was lost at sea, Susan was reminded that even though her sorrow was as the sea billows roll, her husband’s soul was with God.

Not only did Kelly, pen those words to his wife, but to his parents as well.it is well 2

It Is Well With My Soul was sung at Kelly’s memorial service and over the years, it has comforted Grant around the anniversary of his dad’s death. “It’s crazy,” Susan told me, “but almost every time Kelly’s anniversary has fallen on a Sunday we have sung It Is Well in church.”

Right after Grant and I were married, Kelly’s anniversary fell on a Sunday. We were in Texas visiting Grant’s family. It Is Well was sung during Sunday morning worship. The tears just streamed down our faces as we felt God’s presence there with us.

For those who know us (or read this blog), you know the story of Grant’s dad, Kelly. I wrote extensively about it in Texas Heart. You can also watch a short video about it here.

Today marks the 26th anniversary of Kelly’s death. It’s crazy to think that this year Kelly will have been dead as long as he lived (he was 26 when he died). In the past 26 years of Grant’s life, God has been incredibly faithful.

God has showed His faithfulness in so many ways and through so many people. Grant and I were reminded of God’s care today as we remembered Kelly’s death along with his parents who are visiting us.

I stayed home from church today with Evangeline. I received a text message from Grant while he was in church:

They played It Is Well in church. Daddy’s favorite song.

I sent my mom a text a little later telling her that today marked the 26th anniversary. I told her about the song.

She wrote back one word:


I knew what she meant. She meant that God is sovereign. That nothing happens outside of His sovereign hand. It Is Well wasn’t sung in church by chance. God knew today marks the anniversary of Kelly’s death. He hadn’t forgotten the significance of this day in Grant’s life.

Mom sent me another text a little later:

Dad quoted a verse from It Is Well in his sermon this morning.  Then we sang it at the end of the service. So if y’all had not moved, it would have been sung no matter what.

My dad didn’t remember that today was the anniversary, but the Lord did. As Grant and I reflect on Kelly’s legacy today, we are abundantly thankful that we have a God who cares about us deeply and a God who remembers.

While this life is fragile, our souls have an anchor. Through His redemption, we can say confidently as Kelly once did, “It is well with my soul.” 

A Weekend to Remember

blog_256108_2049707This past Memorial Day weekend was a very special one for us for many reasons. Grant and I were on our way to church Sunday morning when we received a text from Grant’s dad, Preston, telling us “Happy 11th Anniversary!” For a moment, we looked at one another in confusion, not knowing what he was talking about. Then we realized what he meant. . .it was exactly 11 years to the day, that Grant and I met each other.

My memories of the day I met Grant aren’t as clear as I’d like them to be. I didn’t know the day I met him was going to forever be significant in my life. Grant and his parents had made a special trip to Beaufort, SC from Texas. They were there to visit his dad, Kelly’s, memorial marker in the Beaufort National Cemetery. It was Memorial Day weekend, and it was the first time Grant was visiting his dad’s marker since the memorial service after his tragic plane crash. Grant was seventeen, and I was sixteen. Our families went to lunch together after church.

I remember glancing at him from across the restaurant. He was tall, lanky, and very “Texan.” I’ve written about meeting Grant before, and you can read that here. 

This past Sunday, I was reminded how the Lord often works in ways we do not expect. I had absolutely no idea the day I met Grant that he would one day be my husband. Grant and I shared a brief hello then, and we wouldn’t speak to one another again for seven years.

Memorial Day weekend is also particularly special for us because of the death of Grant’s dad. Not only that, Grant served in the Marine Corps for 4 1/2 years and we have dear friends and family who are serving now. Memorial Day is not just a day off – it’s a day to remember and thank God for those we have given their lives so that others may enjoy freedom.

Grant’s birthday is always right around Memorial Day, but this past year, it fell on Monday. We celebrated his birthday by visiting the Creation Museum right outside Cincinnati and thanking the Lord for his goodness in our lives.

The past couple years, we were in Beaufort for (or around) Memorial Day, and were able to visit Grant’s dad’s memorial marker. We weren’t able to do that this year. When we arrived home from our day at the museum, my mom sent me something she had written about Grant’s dad.

There really are no words to express how touched Grant and I were by what she wrote. It was as if she explained so many of the feelings we were feeling that day but didn’t know how to share.

Here is her post: A Man I Never Knew

A Challenge to Christian Men (by Grant)

Grant recently wrote about leadership over at The Council on Biblical Manhood & Womanhood. I wanted to post the link for those who may not follow CBMW (If you don’t, you should!). CBMW is always coming out with great articles and blogposts relating to manhood and womanhood.

Here’s the intro to Grant’s piece:

Through my time playing 5A Texas high school football, participating in the Corps of Cadets at Texas A&M University, and later serving as an officer in the United States Marine Corps, and now serving at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, I have encountered some incredibly gifted leaders. Men whose personalities seem larger than life; men that have the unique ability to influence everyone around them, not because of their rank or title, but purely based on their personality and proficiency. Men that people talk about affectionately when they are not around and drive hundreds of miles just to hear them speak and possibly spend a few moments with them. You have probably known these types of men as well; men that inspire in their leadership…

Read the rest here 

For those who have been encouraged by the story of Grant’s father, I thought I would post this short little video that tells a little bit more about Kelly’s legacy through Grant’s eyes.

I also wrote a lot more about the details of Grant’s father’s death when I wrote Texas Heart, the story of how Grant and I met and married through the tragic passing of his dad.

God is good and incredibly faithful and we are so thankful to Him.

The Explosion in West, TX and Fatherhood

ImageGrant and I have been grieving this week over the bombings in Boston and the explosion in West, TX. We were heading to bed on Wednesday night when we heard the news about the fertilizer plant explosion. We were glued to the television as we watched the events unfolding in West, unable to fully believe that what we were seeing was actually taking place. We immediately began to pray through tears. It was all we could do.

It especially hit close to home for Grant since he has family who live near West. When we heard about the firemen who died trying to put out the fire, Grant looked at me and said, “They will never come home to their kids.” His face was filled with grief because he knew the pain these children would experience for the rest of their lives.

Grant shared some of his thoughts today on the CBMW website. If you aren’t familiar with The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, I encourage you to check it out!

Read his article here and read more about the heart behind CBMW here.

A Father’s Legacy

For Mother’s Day, I wrote a piece for a local magazine on lessons I learned from my mom. I was asked to write a similar article for Father’s Day.  I’m so thankful for my dad, and for Grant’s dads! God has been good to us.
Below is the piece I wrote for the magazine. You can view the online version here.
A Father’s Legacy
Every father makes an impression on his children, but not every father leaves a legacy. Between the two of us, my husband and I have three dads who have left lasting legacies in our lives. While our dads are different in many ways, each possess character qualities that set them apart as remarkable men, which in turn, make them extraordinary fathers.
Integrity & Character
My husband, Grant, was two years old when his dad, Kelly, died in a Marine Corps plane crash. His parents were stationed in Beaufort at the time, and his dad flew F-4 fighter jets. It was just an ordinary day when Grant’s mom, Susan, kissed her husband good-bye when he left for work that morning.  She didn’t know she was kissing Kelly good-bye for the last time. Later that day, during a routine exercise, two jets lost sight of each other in mid-air and collided.  Two of the four pilots survived. But two of them, including Grant’s dad, lost their lives. One moment, my husband had a father, and the next moment, he did not. It would seem that Grant wouldn’t remember his dad very much since he was only a toddler when he died, but surprisingly, he has several fond memories of him. Grant remembers his dad chasing him around their house and arranging for the fire truck on Laurel Bay to visit for his two-year-old birthday party. Although Grant didn’t understand the details that took his dad’s life, he remembers crying day after day when he slowly came to realize that he didn’t have a daddy anymore. Even more than what Grant remembers about his dad, it’s what he’s been told about Kelly that has shaped Grant into the man and father that he is today.  Grant’s mom shared with him the type of man Kelly was, and the kind of man Grant needed to grow up to be.  One of the stories she shared with him about his dad helped guide Grant through his growing up years. One weekend, Kelly’s squadron had a mandatory function at a beach house. The pilots were told not to bring their wives because they would be receiving their call signs. When Kelly arrived home to Grant’s mom after the weekend was over, he was noticeably upset. Susan asked him what was wrong. Kelly went on to explain that the function turned wild, and strippers were brought to the party. Kelly told Susan that he couldn’t leave since it was a mandatory function, so he sat in a corner of the room all evening with his hand over his eyes. “Seriously… that’s what you did?” Susan asked, dumbfounded that he was able to do that in a crowded party faced with much temptation. “Yes,” Kelly replied. After Kelly’s death, someone gave Grant’s mom a photograph taken of Kelly during that function. While you can’t see much, Kelly is visible in the back of the room, his hand over his eyes. That photograph sat on Grant’s desk all throughout high school. And now it sits on his bedroom dresser in our home. It’s a reminder to him to stand for what is good and right and true no matter what, just like his dad did. Even though Kelly has been dead for over 25 years, he left a legacy that continues to impact not only my husband, but me as well.
Compassion & Love
When Grant’s dad died, a young Marine Officer who had known Kelly, was deeply grieved over Kelly’s tragic death. His heart immediately went out to Grant and Susan. He prayed that God would provide a new father for Grant and comfort Susan in the days ahead. What he didn’t know was that one day he would be the answer to his own prayer. Four years later, he married Grant’s mom. Grant’s new dad, Preston, loved Grant like his own son. Grant immediately started calling him “daddy” without hesitation. “I was just so happy to have a dad again,” Grant explains, recalling those years. Even though Preston loved Grant as his own flesh and blood, he encouraged Grant to keep his dad’s last name. Preston thought it was important for Grant to carry on Kelly’s name and legacy. He wanted to honor the sacred place Grant would always hold in his heart for his first dad. Preston wasn’t in competition for Grant’s love or affection. He had a genuine love and compassion for Grant and his mom. He wanted to honor all that had happened in the past as well as help shape Grant into the man he needed to be in the future. Preston exhibited the true heart of a father; one filled with a protective and sacrificial love. When Grant talks about all that his dad, Preston, did for him, his eyes fill with tears, “He did so much that he didn’t have to do.” When Preston married Susan, he wasn’t merely beginning a new family; he was marrying into one that had already begun. Stepping into a family that has already been established is not an easy task. Yet Preston was willing to continue the legacy that Kelly started, and in doing so, he is leaving one in Grant’s life that will never be forgotten.
Faithfulness & Endurance
I was four years old when my dad became a pastor. That’s what I’ve always known him to be. When I was little, I didn’t really understand all that went into his calling to pastoral ministry. Now that I’m an adult, it’s amazing to see how faithful my dad has been to preach the Bible week in and week out for so many years, even when it’s not popular. I’ve heard my dad say numerous times, “The Christian life is not a fifty yard dash, it’s a marathon.” My dad taught me that running well is not necessarily about how I start, but instead, how I finish. Even more than my dad’s faithfulness to ministry, his faithfulness as a husband and a father has impacted me the most. My dad has been faithful to my mom for the thirty-two years they have been married. Not only is he committed to her, I know that he loves her more than anyone else in this world. As a child, I never once had to worry about whether or not my parents would stay married. Their commitment to one another created stability that grounded me. Even as a little girl, I knew I wanted to marry a man who would love me as much as my dad loved my mom. When I became engaged to Grant, numerous people told me, “Wow, he reminds me of your dad!” At first, I said, “Really?” And then I recognized how right they were. My dad set a standard for the type of man I wanted to marry. Grant is like my dad in many ways, and that’s one of the reasons why I love him so much. My dad imparted a legacy of faithfulness that dramatically affects the way my life is today.
As this Father’s Day approaches, who are the men in your life who have been true fathers to you? Maybe your dad has passed away, but he has left a legacy in your life that you will never forget. Maybe your dad is someone who took you in and loved you as his own when he didn’t have to. Or maybe your dad is someone that has shown you by his life and words what it means to live a life of faithfulness. Our world needs men of integrity, men of compassion, and men of faithfulness. Any father can leave an impression on his children; but it takes someone special to leave a legacy.

A Photograph

I was 17 years old. I sat in a lawn chair that I had pulled down from the deck in our backyard. I sat facing the river and marsh. I had a copy of Elisabeth Elliot’s book, Shadow of the Almighty.
In the first few pages of the book, Elisabeth Elliot talks about how Christians today have a great lack of spiritual heroes.
When you ask the average young person (who is a Christian), to list their heroes, sadly, very few have a list of men and women of faith.
I remember Elisabeth talking about the great need for Christians to have heroes in the faith. Those whom we not only respect, but we want to be like. And how having heroes is so necessary for spiritual growth.
I sat in the yard that afternoon, and I thought about who my spiritual heroes were. I even made a list. That list included my parents and a couple older and wiser friends, several pastors and teachers, and a few of my favorite Biblical heroes. I listed out different character qualities that made me want to be like those people.
As I think back on the past 10 years of my life since that day, I know that having those spiritual heroes has helped to shape me into the person I am today.
I was thinking about spiritual heroes this past week because it was the anniversary of the death of Grant’s father, Kelly. Without a doubt, Kelly Castleberry is one of Grant’s greatest heroes (along with the father who raised him, Preston. Preston is the man whom his mother married 4 years after Kelly died).
There is a picture in our hallway upstairs that is a testimony to the heroism that Kelly holds in Grant’s life. Let me tell you the story behind it:
Kelly was a F-4 pilot in the Marine Corps. One weekend his squadron had a mandatory function at a beach house in N.C. The pilots were told not to bring their wives because they would be receiving their call signs (a nickname given to a military pilot).
When Kelly arrived home to Grant’s mom after the weekend was over, he was noticeably upset. Susan asked him what was wrong. Kelly went on to explain how awful the function was. The function turned wild, and unbeknownst to him, strippers were brought into the party to perform. Susan asked him what he did. Kelly went on to explain that since he couldn’t leave since it was a mandatory function, he sat in one corner of the room all evening with his hand over his eyes.
Seriously… that’s what you did?” Susan asked unable to believe that he was able to do that in a crowded party with so much temptation. “Yes,” Kelly replied.
After Kelly’s death, someone gave Grant’s mom a photograph. In the photograph you can see Kelly at the party. While you can’t see the strippers, you can see Kelly in the back of the room, his hand over his eyes.
That photograph sat on Grant’s desk all throughout high school. It meant the world to Grant.
It reminded Grant daily, that just like his father, he must stand for Christ. And now, every time I go upstairs, it reminds me too.
Hebrews 13:7 says,
“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith.”
We need spiritual heroes.
But of course, our greatest hero is not a person. If we idolize one single person, they will inevitably let us down. After all, they are sinners just like we are.
But we do have One who is a perfect spiritual hero. One that we can follow completely and wholeheartedly.
“Let us run with endurance the race set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith. (Heb. 12:1-2)
I’m thankful this week for those who have led me, taught me, and been godly examples in my life. I’m thankful for photographs, notes, godly wisdom, prayers, and encouragement from godly family and friends.
My list of heroes hasn’t changed since that day in my parent’s backyard when I was 17, but it has grown.
And most of all, I’m thankful that those people have pointed me to my greatest hero, Jesus Christ.