Praise, Pray, and Peg Away

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

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

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

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

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

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

He replied, “Both.” 

“Thanks, Grant.”

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

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

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

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

She did not have it easy. 

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

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

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

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

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

Praise. Pray. Peg away. 

I love that. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On Motherhood And Blurry Days

“It’s all a blur” I hear a young mom say from across the playground as she chats with another mom about the memories and milestones of her little one.

Her words resonate with me as I think back on the first few months of each of my children’s lives. Late nights, middle of the night feedings, early mornings.

Coffee in the AM.

Coffee in the PM.

Swaying, rocking, snuggling.

I remember everything, and yet I don’t. There is so much that runs together.

As I swing my son back and forth and listen to his little laugh, her words also bring a twinge of sadness and I am convinced of one thing: I don’t want it all to be a blur.

Motherhood means more to me than that.

I don’t want it to turn to mush in my mind.

While I know many of these vibrant moments will fade, I want more than a string of bleary days to commemorate this work I’m doing.

I know I won’t remember it all, but when it’s all over, I want something to say.

I Want To Be Your Mom

For me, the hardest days of mothering are when I am either tired or distracted. In one sense, both of these things are inevitable.

Being tired is a stake a mom drives in the ground the moment her child is born (and the weeks leading up to birth or adoption). It comes with the territory and it really is some sort of rite of passage.

Distraction, on the other hand, is something I can somewhat control. With a husband working full-time and in school full-time (PhD), there are many tasks outside of the realm of motherhood which call my name.

Helping my husband, making time to be in the Word, managing our home, and taking care of as many tasks as I can to free Grant up are very important to me.

But I’ve also learned (and am learning) to let go of a lot of things that in this season of my life, prove to be distractions.

There is a lot of pressure these days for young moms to be and do so much. A lot of distractions.

And yet being a wife and a mom are so much more than mere bullet points on a list of other things.

Nothing, nothing, will ever compare to the love between my husband and me and this work of raising our children.

It’s just not even on the same playing field as anything else.

It is hard, all encompassing, and ever rewarding.

I’m figuring out how to say no, how to take advantage of blocks of alone time, get a sitter when I need time with just my husband, but most of all keep perspective so that I can lay on the floor with my kids and put together a puzzle or we can all climb into my overstuffed rocking chair and sing song after song of their choosing.

Because they just love that.

And at the end of the day, they don’t want a million things I can give to them. They just want me.

I never want my children to look back and remember a mom who was always distracted. A mom who always had something else to do that was more important than them.

I want them to know in the core of their beings that I always wanted to be their mom. Even when they were little and even when I did indeed have many things to do.

I want to remind them often, “I just love being your mom” and then show them because that is how they understand.

But if I want them to see that clearly, I must.

As I pour that second cup of coffee, I remind myself that I don’t need to be anywhere else and that no work is more important than this work.

No people are more important than these people.

And when I do, the blurriness seems to fade and it’s true, I don’t feel as tired.

Teach Me To Count

We are living in scary days, aren’t we? I’ve been spending time meditating in the Psalms the past couple months and have been thinking a lot about what David says in Psalm 39, “O LORD, make me know my end and what is the measure of my days; let me know how fleeting I am!”

I don’t know how long I have here on this earth.

And while I don’t think the point of this Psalm is to spend every waking moment wondering when I will die (that wouldn’t be healthy), it is a call to living life with perspective.

I have this one life. I don’t know how long it will be. How will I spend it? What truly matters?

I don’t want to spend it investing in things that won’t last, but in people who will.

These little people matter.

So stop beating yourself up for not doing a million of other things that are outside of this work.

You are only one woman. Focus on the things that matter. The things God has called you to do.

This work we are doing as moms, it is not mushy work. It is not temporal.

It is not something to check off on my “to-do” list.

It is lasting. 

It’s not hay, straw, or stubble. At least it doesn’t have to be.

It may not hold up well on a resume, but it can stand the fire if done for the glory of God.

There will be bleary days, there just will.

But it doesn’t all have to be that way.

Mothering is lasting treasure after all, even on blurry days.

No Small Thing

I washed and folded three loads of laundry today. I fished a ring out of the bath tub drain. I scrubbed that same bath tub. I helped my toddler line up 12 pairs of shoes in a straight line.

I changed too many diapers to count or care. I kissed a baby too many times to count but oh how I cared.

I pretended to read a story but actually made up my own instead because there were too many words for a picture book.

I pushed a double stroller down a hill and then back up.

I made spaghetti. I watched my three-year-old eat butter noodles from across the table and say “that’s a wong one!” with a noodle dangling very deliberately from her mouth.

When I had a few moments of quiet, I fell asleep trying to read a book about personal discipline.

I didn’t do anything today that anyone would find particularly interesting. Or even myself for that matter.

I wasn’t publicly commended for an act of service. I didn’t have anything published. I didn’t write a paper or deliver a speech. I wasn’t on television or featured on a blog.

I didn’t even take a single picture (which is very unusual for me).

But I went on a walk and told my toddler about a little tree that used to grow in my front yard when I was her age.

“Just like our tree?” she questioned, eyes wide.

“Yes. Just like ours”

And in that moment I felt the weight of how much all of it matters.

All the things we do together, like twilight walks, listening to crickets, talking about “important” stuff like how us girls prefer cereal for breakfast but Daddy likes eggs.

As I looked into the blue eyes of my fair haired middle child, I knew, these will be her memories.

These moments may seem mundane in the eyes of someone else, but they are shaping her.

What a privilege to be given a task like this. What a joy to know that the little moments matter.

There is no such thing as living small when your role is so big in the life of someone else.

Don’t believe that lie. Ever.

No matter how many places you see or hear it.

There are some things we don’t need to doubt because the answers are right in front of us.

And that is no small thing.

A World With Octobers

IMG_1563As a young girl, October was always my favorite month of the year. Its arrival meant my birthday, the much-anticipated harvest festival our church held at a nearby farm, and being able to sit on the front porch instead of inside to work on school lessons.

I can pretty confidently say October is still my favorite month, though I have learned I really do love all the “in between” weeks nestled in each season the best. Those glorious days when spring finally breaks through the cold of winter, the inaugural “hot” day of summer, the first snowflake of winter, and of course the transition from the warmth of summer to all that is so beautiful about fall. What a blessing the Lord brings change into our lives and that even the weather has a dynamic rotation.

But as much as I love change, when it comes to mothering and life in general, transition is not always easy. Just yesterday morning a new picture greeted me from my Timehop, transporting me to a memory three years ago.

My oldest was basically a baby and all the thoughts and feelings of that day and the emotions of that fall of first arriving at seminary came flooding back. The people. The places. The joys and the struggles.

How has it been three years already?

And the shocking thing about being a mother is the realization my children grow so quickly, and with each change of the season, they are not the same.

As I opened my Bible, pondering these things and praying through Psalm 1, my soul immediately found perspective:

How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,

Nor stand in the path of sinners,

Nor sit in the seat of scoffers:

But his delight is in the law of the Lord,

And in His law he meditates day and night.

He will be like a tree firmly planted by streams of water,

Which yields its fruit in its season, 

And its leaf does not wither;

And in whatever he does he prospers.

When I look back on the past few years and even further, I am grateful for the Lord’s faithfulness. Every day I get to be a wife to Grant and a mom to my kids is truly a privilege and a gift.

My heart fills with nostalgic joy when I remember the day Grant and I got married and for each day we have had with our children. I cherish the fruit the Lord has brought in each season.

But I cannot go back. And just like it is impossible to store produce for very long, I cannot cling to the things of the past.

And each day I live, my memories from each new season only grow.

But what an encouragement it is when God brings a new season.

There is fresh and good fruit to be produced in my life today. New ways to pour out my heart to God. New ways to encourage my husband. New songs to sing to my children. New memories. New ways to see God working. 12068505_10107201162060384_8776554053182777259_o

It would be hard to live in a world without Octobers. But even harder to live in a world where God did not faithfully make things new in our hearts.

There is new fruit to be produced.

And that warms my heart this October.

“Choice fruits, new as well as old, which I have laid up for you, O my beloved.”

Learning to See: On Motherhood & Melted Crayons

It all started with soggy running shoes around six AM. I woke extra early to get a short run in before the kids woke up and Grant left for work. I went out to the back patio to grab my shoes when I discovered that I had completely forgotten what had transpired the afternoon before.

My tired mind flashed back to the image of a two-year-old all grins and giggles as she waded in the baby pool using my only pair of running shoes as some sort of dilapidated water skis.

Of course, I then did the unthinkable. I picked up my still soggy shoes and went running anyway, trying desperately to not think about what kind of bacteria was likely breeding around my toes with each squishy step.

And then there was the melted red crayon later that afternoon which basically ruined an entire load of laundry. Crayon was left in pocket of afore mentioned two-year-old. I barely even mentioned the incidents, realizing they were not intentional acts of destruction.

If anything, it was my fault for leaving my running shoes next to the pool and for not checking pockets before throwing laundry into the wash. My toddler was just being who she was, all of thirty-five months old.

But late that evening, when I was finishing up housework and about to get ready for bed, it was the toilet paper that pushed me. I walked in to the girls’ bathroom to find what looked like at least half a roll of toilet paper which had been finely shredded in little pieces everywhere. Almost as if a squirrel was trying to turn the tile into a comfy nest.

That’s when I felt my blood pressure rise and I knew this wasn’t an innocent act. This was not cute. “Who did this with the toilet paper? I called down the hall, my voice agitated.

I heard a little voice own it immediately, “I did it, Mommy! I DID IT!”

At that moment, Grant walked down the hall and saw me beginning to pick up the shreds of toilet paper. “Can you believe this? I cannot believe she would think this was okay?!” I exclaimed to him.

I could still hear her little voice saying something down the hall but was too caught up in my frustration to listen. I would go to her room and talk with her. Momma was not happy.

“GraceAnna, stop!” Grant’s voice interrupted my thoughts. “Step back and look at this.” I stood up and stepped out of the bathroom to survey the damage again. “GraceAnna, she wasn’t trying to shred the paper for fun. See that toilet paper roll, she was putting the new one on the toilet paper holder. All the shredding was her trying to get the wrapper off.”

I stood there quietly and saw that to my shock, Grant was right. I had totally missed it. I had totally and completely missed it.

The little shreds had meant something. She was trying to accomplish something.

That’s when I heard the happy voice down the hall exclaim again, “I did it Mommy! I DID IT!”

I looked at Grant and with tears in my eyes said, Grant, I didn’t even see it.”

“Come here!” I called to the little voice and she ran out of her room ever so proudly. I got down on my knees and said, “Momma is so proud of you for putting the toilet paper roll on the holder. What a good helper you are to Mommy. Thank you so much!”

I gave her the biggest hug and showered her with kisses and she beamed from head to toe before I sent her back to bed.

As I got back on the bathroom floor to finish cleaning up, my heart felt much like the tiny shreds of tissue I threw in the waste basket. I had almost missed it.

Seeing With New Eyes

When you are a mom of young children, it can be so easy to get wrapped up in all the doing. There are so many daily needs and demands that little people require of you, that it can often be hard to see beyond the task at hand.

But as moms who have been transformed by Christ, we must ask the Lord to help us see beyond the daily routine, to the hearts of our children.

Mothering isn’t just doing, it is seeing.

In Matthew chapter 19, wedged between Jesus’ teaching on divorce and sharing the gospel with a rich young man, is the account of Jesus blessing the little children (see also Mark 10 and Luke 18).

People (presumably parents) were bringing children to Jesus that “he might touch them.” The disciples sized up the situation and they acted accordingly. These children were a distraction to Jesus’ ministry and they promptly “rebuked the people.”

Jesus however, didn’t see the situation that way. Instead, He was indignant at his disciples for their actions and exclaimed, “Let the little children come to me, for such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”

I know many of us know this story, but do we as moms really know it?

Throughout His earthly ministry Jesus was always doing this…always seeing beyond the circumstance at hand. Seeing beyond the disease. Beyond the storm. Beyond pangs of hunger and bread and fish.

Almost as if He had a completely different set of eyes for every situation.

Which He did.

And He does.

He has eyes that pierce the depths.

I cannot tell you how many times my mind has thought about that shredded roll of toilet paper this week. It was a stark reminder that without the Lord’s help I cannot see beyond the temporal with my children. I need to really see not just do.

I’m not just managing little ones. Even though I am doing that. I’m not just getting through the routine of the day and making sure everyone is fed and clothed and (hopefully) rested.

I am shepherding the souls of children who will never die.

The beauty of the gospel is that He has given me new eyes and a new heart. I have been transformed and am being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit and truth of His perfect Word.

I don’t have to just clean up shredded toilet paper, wet shoes, or melted crayons. With His help, I can see hearts that need love, training, and the forgiveness of Jesus.

I have the privilege of not just doing, but really seeing.

What a journey this is. What a joy. I am laughing along the way, I am crying, I am growing, and I am learning to see.

Let’s Stay Home

It’s been two months since I made the big transition from being of mom of 2, to a mom of 3!

Phew!

With that transition, I’ve spent a lot of time at home. Including my first week home from the hospital when a blizzard hit and I didn’t step out the front door for a week. A week! Never in my life has that happened and I kind of hope it never does again.

Times of transition and change always seem to provide a good opportunity to reflect and reevaluate things in my life. When it comes to mothering, I look back on what the season has been like, the challenges I’ve faced, and the areas I most want to grow.

With adding a third baby to the mix (and currently not getting out as often as I was), I’ve come to appreciate being at home even more. The Lord has been faithful to remind me that my home is where I am most needed and along with service to my church, is the most important place I spend my time.

Here are just three things I’ve been pondering the past couple weeks:

My children need me to be home

Even as a stay-at-home mom (which I like to call work-at-home mom ;-)), it can still be very easy to always be on the go. There is often so much to do and a plethora of options to fill up my time: groceries, errands, library, park, play dates, post office, ballet, swim, gym, and of course, Target!

I love being active and getting things done during the week. But I am also realizing that when I am constantly on the go, I’m more prone to miss things with my kids. I’m buckling carseats and making sure hands are held and the baby isn’t crying and lists aren’t flying and no one is wetting their pants for goodness sake! It’s much easier for me to get impatient, stressed, and misjudge situations with my children.

These days at home have taught me the importance of streamlining my week as much as I am able (because all of the things above are good things) so that I have more undistracted time with my children at home.

I need to slow down and really listen to their stories and made-up songs.

IMG_6618I need to say “yes” more than “not right now” when they say, “Mommy can you color with me?”And maybe even learn to draw a strange creature called a “minion” (even if I have to watch a youtube art lesson).

I need to show them how to clean their room (and not just expect them to know).

I need to pray for them and with them when they tell me that they want to believe in Jesus but they don’t understand why they can’t see Him right now and that they really wish He would just come sit on their bed.

I need to take the time to lay down with them and tell them story after story of “when you were a little girl” because one day they won’t be either.

A relationship cannot grow unless it is cultivated. And their little hearts are the softest kind of soil.

I need to be home

I think there can be a lot of pressure from others and even from ourselves, to always be on the go. 5 little words have been a great comfort to me lately, “It’s okay to stay home.”

And it is not only okay, it is good.

Titus 2 teaches us as young wives and moms that our home is not only where we should be busy, but that we actually need older women to remind us to spend our time there because we often forget.

What a load of pressure was recently lifted off of me when I shared with an older woman that I couldn’t seem to get out the door the same way as before and she gently reminded me I didn’t need to.IMG_6764

It’s okay to not get all those errands accomplished. It’s okay to not make every play date or library hour. It’s okay to spend an hour coloring and then two hours trying to clean it all up. It’s okay. 

I recently found a sweet print online that says, “Let’s Stay Home.” I printed it out and put it on my fridge because it reminds me of a little four year old who says to me often, “I just want to be home today.” 

And I want to say on more days than one, “Yes, that is exactly the plan.

My husband needs me to be home

It’s often said, “If momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” It’s true though isn’t it? I’ve found that when I try to do too much outside my home, I’m not the happy and kind wife my husband loves to love.

When I make more time to be in the Word and focus my energies where they truly need to be, I am less frazzled and more content when my man walks through the door.

And even my Texan who thinks big and doesn’t analyze details will express in his way how much he appreciates how I’ve made our place a home.

He wants to come home not just because I’m there, but because he knows I want to be there. And that makes all the difference.

Because when I’m happy to be home, all those moments of cleaning up spilled milk, folding yet another pile of laundry, organizing a junk drawer, or wiping down a dirty toilet lid, show how much I love this life we’ve made together.

It says this home matters to me because you do.

I’m not just a “cleaning lady” who cleans to clean, I clean because I love.

I wash dishes because I love.

I wake up in the middle of the night to feed a baby because I love.

I clean a dirty oven because I love.

I make my husband his favorite dessert because I love.

I read stories in my pajamas without make-up on because I love.

I make paper chains and paper snowmen not because I’m “crafty” but because I love.

I do things that may seem meaningless to others or a waste of my mental energies because I love.

I love my husband. I love my children. And on top of all that, God is happy that I do (Titus 2:4).

So I think I will enjoy this season for a very long time.

And as much as I can, say, “Let’s stay home.”

A Brave New Mom

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetIt wasn’t my plan to tackle the grocery store anytime soon with a newborn and two toddlers.

My plan is to go in the evenings after Grant gets home or as a family on the weekends.

But this past weekend came and went and I didn’t want to go to the store. And this morning rolled around and I discovered that we were pretty much out of everything.

Could I tackle the store for a few items? Would that be insane?

I’ll be honest, caring for a newborn is much easier the third time around. I’m relaxed about it and that feels so good. Most of the time, I realize why our son is crying. And the other times, I realize he is just fussy because he is a baby and babies cry.

I’m tired during the day and I have circles under my eyes but I also realize it won’t be like this for long.

But of course this time around, I’m not just caring for a newborn. I am also raising a two-year-old and a four-year-old. Two little people who are struggling for independence but are still ever so dependent on me.

I am figuring it out.

And today, it was the grocery store.

I pulled into the lot and looked at the three sweet faces in the back seat.

Could I do this? 

And then I did what all mothers do. Regardless of how I felt in that moment, I made a plan of action and executed it.

With each push of the buggy through the grocery aisles, I felt more confident. I could do this. 

Before I knew it, I was heading home with a trunk full of groceries and not just two, but three children safely strapped in the backseat (one crying his little head off).

Thank you, God, I prayed. Thank you for that.

Unchartered Frontier

Becoming a mother is like embarking on unchartered territory or pioneering a new land. From the moment you find out you are pregnant, to the daily grind of running a house with little ones, there is so much unknown.

Even though millions of women have gone before you on this journey, it’s still new to you.

When you are expecting your first child, you don’t know what labor and delivery will be like. You wonder if you will be able to do it. How do women do it?

And when you bring your baby home from the hospital, you frantically realize that there is no instruction manual. That being a mom really is all up to you.

Then there is each new challenge along the way: figuring out how carseats and strollers hook & buckle, a manageable nap time routine, and whether you should rock your little one or let them cry it out.

With each new step, you do things you never thought you could. Before you know it, it’s second nature and the lady in the grocery store looks at you and says, “Wow, you have your hands full!” You smile and think, It’s not that hard. You’ve forgotten that not that long ago you were afraid to get out of the car.

And then you realize, motherhood has changed you. You are strong.

Strength in Weakness

Being a mother is not about having it all together. In fact, the moment that you think things are going pretty swell, is exactly the moment when something comes along that throws you for a loop. You are driven to your knees and like a new mom afraid to go in the grocery store you say, God please help me.

And He does. And you discover once again that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4:6).

When I was a brand new mom and the dishes were piled high or I was struggling with how to get our daughter to sleep, Grant would often whisper in my ear, “Be strong and courageous.” 

Those words helped me look beyond myself and what I thought I could handle, to God. He was and is the one who gives me strength for this task of motherhood. He will finish the good work He has started in me (Phil. 1:6). That includes every dirty diaper and each new step.

A Brave New Mom

Being a mother is not for the faint of heart. It’s not for the selfish.

But the problem is, we are faint of heart and we are selfish.

But that’s the amazing thing about God. He uses the weak things of this world to shame the wise (1 Cor. 1:27). And when we call on Him in repentance and humility, He hears (2 Chron. 7:14).

And He makes us strong (Isaiah 40:31).

So, new mom, don’t be afraid. Turn to God. He will help you figure it out. He will be with you as you step into the unknown.

And to the mom who’s been at it a while, remember the One who helped you at the very beginning. He’s still there. And He delights in making the weak strong.

Isaiah 40:27-31
Though youths grow weary and tired,
And vigorous young men stumble badly,
Yet those who wait for the Lord
Will gain new strength;
They will mount up with wings like eagles,
They will run and not get tired,
They will walk and not become weary.

If you were encouraged by this piece, you might also like The Cost of Motherhood

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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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