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.

Texas Heart Part 35 – {Full Circle}

I grasped my husband’s hand as we got into the antique car that was waiting for us outside the church to take us to the reception. Grant closed the heavy door and leaned in to kiss me. I still couldn’t believe we were married.
I never imagined it would be him. I mean, I never knew that it was Grant that God had for me. If I had only known, it would have saved so much worry!
It was only two years before that I had spent the summer on a “Summer Project” with Cru in Santa Cruz, California.

One particular morning, I was walking along the breathtaking California coastline with my Bible study leader, Hannah.
As we walked and talked, our conversation turned toward Clemson. Hannah had attended Clemson too and she started asking me why I wasn’t dating anyone.
“What about so-and-so?” She asked. “Why don’t you date him? He’s an awesome guy.”
“I know,” I responded. “I don’t think he likes me though.”
“Okay, well what about so-and-so?” She continued as she named off another friend.
“I don’t know,” I went on. “It just doesn’t seem right.”
She continued on through a list of different godly guys that we both knew.
“I don’t know, Hannah. I just feel like God is saying no. I don’t know what He’s trying to tell me, but I just feel like He wants me to wait.”
I’ll never forget how Hannah responded. “Well, God must have someone great in mind for you, GraceAnna.”
I hope you’re right, I remember saying.
Grant put his arm around me in the backseat of the car. Now it was all a reality. God had been calling me to wait for His perfect timing. All along, He had Grant in mind for me.
And now I was Mrs. Castleberry. I remembered the first time I had said Grant’s last name aloud when I was vacationing with my family at Fripp Island. I had loved the way his name rolled off my tongue. It was different and it had a masculine and yet feminine sound to it. I liked it. Now it was my own.
As the old car pulled into Pinckney Retreat, I looked out the window. I couldn’t believe how beautiful everything looked.
Grant and I mingled with our guests under the canopy of live oak trees. We tried to talk to everyone. We felt so overwhelmed with gratitude to our friends and family who had come to celebrate with us.
Grant’s Grammie who was suffering from cancer had come all the way from Texas.
My entire Duke Bible study had driven down from North Carolina.
Grant’s friends, the Leonards, had driven up from Florida.
Some of my Clemson friends had made the drive down from the upstate.
A group of Grant’s Texas Aggie buddies had flown in for the weekend.
And then their were our Beaufort friends who were there but they were serving. They had spent days planning just so that we could enjoy this special time – friends like the Gays who headed up the Lowcountry food, and my friend Kelly who put together the flowers, and Casey who played Josh Turner, George Strait, and old hymns on his guitar during the reception.
Everything was just perfect, and then I felt the drops of rain.
I had prayed so hard for God to give us beautiful weather on our wedding day. After all, it’s what every bride wants.
When I first felt the raindrops, I was talking to someone. I tried to keep talking and ignore the wetness I was beginning to feel pattering on my arms. Perhaps if I ignored the raindrops then they wouldn’t really be real?
I watched out of the corner of my eye as guests began to gather underneath the giant live oak trees and the white tents.
Oh no! How is this happening? I thought frantically. Everything will be ruined!
Then I saw my brother, Grant, walk toward me. He was holding a giant umbrella. He came and stood next to me as if nothing odd was happening. He didn’t say a word.
As he stood next to me, I suddenly realized that everything was going to be okay.

I was married. The day had been wonderful and the rain couldn’t change that. There was nothing to worry about.
As the rain fell, it brought something unexpected. It brought a cooling breeze that drove away the August heat and made everything feel more pleasant.
And just as soon as the rain had arrived, it was gone.
My dad’s voice gathered everyone around the old porch of the Pinckney Retreat home. He thanked everyone for coming and then announced that there were some people who wanted to share a few words.

To my surprise, all four of my brothers gave speeches. They shared childhood stories of us growing up together. They made jokes about my new husband. They made me laugh hysterically and they made me cry. I felt like I was constantly switching between smiles and tears.
I was crying not just because it was so special that they were sharing, but also because I couldn’t believe I married a guy that was like them in so many ways.

When the speeches were over, Grant took my hand and led me to the dance floor for our first dance.

Tis’ So Sweet to Trust in Jesus began to play as Grant started dancing with me. He gently led me as we moved across the old cobblestone bricks.
I felt a little uncomfortable knowing that everyone was staring at us, but Grant didn’t seem to mind. He held me gently, yet firmly. “Just follow my lead,” he reminded me. Dancing came so naturally to him and soon I began to relax as I remembered to just follow him.

As we danced, I realized that this was the beginning of so many things. This day was not the “end” of me trusting the Lord. Grant was not my ultimate goal that I had spent my whole life waiting for or the one who I had placed my hope in.

Yes, God had been abundantly good in bringing Grant into my life. But this was just one of many lessons. Just as God had called me to trust Him in the area of a future husband, He would call me to trust Him every day for the rest of my life.

This day would be a day that I could look back on and remember God’s faithfulness. It would be a monument in my life that I could call to mind when I needed to remind myself that the God who I follow is a God who takes notice of everything. He is a God who cares. He is a God who is concerned about His glory.

This day was just one day in the story that God had been weaving all along. I would have never known so long ago when I had first seen Grant’s photograph in the radio station, that the little blonde headed boy in the picture would one day be my husband. I would have never known that I would marry a Texas Aggie and a Marine Officer. I would have never known that a plane crash that happened when I was just a year old would affect me so greatly and that it would be the factor that brought Grant to visit Beaufort when he was in high school.

I didn’t know the big picture. And while I was beginning to see things that I hadn’t seen before, this was only the start.

“GraceAnna, look!” My mom came up to me sometime after we had cut the cake.

I turned in the direction that she was pointing, and there, arching over the salt marsh, was a rainbow.

Grant came up behind me and grabbed my hand.

“Come on! Let’s go out on the dock.”

We headed toward the water’s edge where everyone was gathering to admire the giant bow in the sky.
I didn’t notice at first, but then I realized it was a double rainbow.

Grant, I can’t believe God gave us a rainbow! A double rainbow! My heart filled with joy. 

I thought about the very first rainbow that we know of which is recorded in the book of Genesis. It appeared after God’s worldwide judgment of sin. 

The earth must have felt so barren and so different after the flood. But as Noah and his family stepped off the ark, they were greeted with a bow of colors in the sky. God was revealing to Noah and his family something about who He was. He was showing them that even in the cloud, He is there. That though the rains may come as a result of our sinful and broken world, He promises grace to those who belong to Him.

I hadn’t wanted it to rain that day. But now I realized why God had brought the rain. He was demonstrating that the way He does things is often the opposite way that we think they should happen. That He so often allows the rain, so that He can show us His glory and His grace in a way that we would have never seen it before.

My eyes filled with tears.  I felt like this rainbow was God’s special wedding gift to us. 

I felt like God was teaching me a lesson about who He is and who He will always be. 

As I gazed at the beautiful array of colors that arched as far as I could see, I felt like He was near.  And I knew, that no matter what the future held for us, He promised His grace to bring us through.

“GraceAnna,” Grant said to me as we stood on the dock staring out at the rainbow, “Let’s always follow hard after the Lord all the days of our lives.”

I took Grant’s hand in mine. “Yes, let’s.”

The End

Texas Heart Part 34 – {Make My Life a Prayer}

Grant and I kneeled together at the prayer bench and Grant took both my hands in his. We had just made our vows to one another, and now we were starting the first few moments of our marriage in prayer.

I heard my dad ask everyone to bow their heads in the presence of God.
Grant and I closed our eyes as Keith Green’s, Make My Life a Prayer to You began to be sung by a family friend.
I listened as he sang,
Make my life a prayer to you, I want to do what You want me to, no empty words and no white lies, no token prayers, no compromise.
I want to shine the light You gave, through Your Son You sent to save us, from our sin and our despair, it comforts me to know You’re really there….
Never had the words seem to ring more true and sincere as they did at that moment. As we kneeled there, I was so thankful that we had chosen this particular song for our first prayer.
It was a song that God had used in both our lives. Grant had listened to this song over and over again in high school. The lyrics had meant a lot to him because they reminded him of his dad’s life. The writer of the song, Keith Green, also died in a plane crash.
The interesting thing was that God had also used this song in my life during college. I can remember many times listening to it in my dorm room and it made such an impact on me that I wrote out the words in the front cover of my Bible as a prayer to the Lord.
We both felt like the song represented how God had been shaping and molding us separately. That’s why we chose it.
But now it was our prayer. Because God had brought us together not simply for our own companionship and joy, but so that we could join together in sharing Him with others and bringing Him glory.
That is God’s ultimate purpose of marriage ~ to bring God greater glory than one could bring alone. We wanted that to be true of our marriage.
As the song continued, Grant grasped my hands even tighter and I heard him say, “Yes, Lord.”

I opened my eyes and looked up, and I found Grant staring at me.
Then the last line of the song was sung,

I want to die and let You give Your life to me so I might live, and share the hope you gave to me. I want to share the love that set me free.
Even though the congregation was still present in the sanctuary, it felt like it was just the two of us before the Lord.

As the song ended, my dad began to pray. He thanked God for the new family that had just begun. He also thanked God for answering Kelly, Susan, Preston, my mom, and his prayers. They had all prayed that God would bring us a godly spouse one day. And God had been faithful.
A tear slipped down my cheek as I thought about what was happening.
God had brought things amazingly full circle.
He had taken the tragic death of Grant’s father years ago and brought yet another beautiful thing out of it.

I couldn’t believe that the seventeen year old boy I had met in high school who was in town visiting his dad’s memorial, was now my husband. My husband! 
My dad’s prayer broke my thoughts,
. . .And God, may You give GraceAnna and Grant a godly heritage that would love Christ and follow closely after Him. Help them to be examples to their children. And now Father, may you bless them and keep them. May you cause your face to shine upon them, be gracious to them, lift up their countenance and give them peace and may the grace of the Lord Jesus and the love of God and the fellowship of Jesus be with you all. Amen.

Grant and I stood and made our way back to the altar. I felt myself smiling as my excitement rose. This was it! We were married!
As we stood, my dad faced us once again.
“Now Grant,” my dad began with a huge smile on his face.
Oh no! I thought to myself. What is he about to say?

“I told you that you could hold hands with GraceAnna when you got engaged and kiss her when you got married.”

Grant started laughing.
“You may now kiss your bride!” 
All the sudden, I got really nervous. All these people were watching us have our very first kiss! And not just our first kiss, but it was the first time I had ever been kissed.
When I was a little girl, my parents had told me that I should save my first kiss for my future husband. There were times when I had thought this was a ridiculous request. Couldn’t I at least kiss when I got engaged?!
But I had honored their wishes. And now, here I was.

My mind began to race . . .what if something embarrassing happens? What if Grant misses? What if. . .
Before I could think another thought, Grant leaned in and kissed me gently.
It was short and sweet, and the most wonderful thing I had ever felt.
The audience erupted in applause.
It had been worth the wait.
Ladies and Gentleman!” my dad announced, “I would now like to present to you, 1st Lt and Mrs. Grant Robert Castleberry!”
to be continued…

The End of Texas Heart

Yes, you read the title correctly. No, I’m not quitting writing Texas Heart . . .

I actually FINISHED writing it!

After 10 months, I finally finished writing the story that I thought was going to take just a few blogposts to write.

I just want to say thank-you to those of you who encouraged me to keep writing and not give up!

There were so many times that I almost stopped writing because I just didn’t know if it was interesting, or I felt like it was getting too long, or I didn’t know if the story was actually encouraging or beneficial to anyone.

So, I really just want to thank those of you who encouraged me along the way to keep writing. I  now have this story to share with AudreyKate and any future children Grant and I may have! And now I don’t have to worry about forgetting all the details because everything is written down.

So, thanks y’all!

Check back for the final 2 posts of Texas Heart.

Texas Heart – Part 33 {A Solemn Charge}

{For those who don’t know, my dad is a pastor, so he is the one who married Grant and me.}

My dad and I slowly approached the large wooden doors of the church sanctuary. I held on tightly to his arm as the beat of my own heart seemed to almost drown out the music that was resonating through the halls.

Then, the music stopped as the last chord of Canon in D was played.

There was a long moment of silence, and then I heard my oldest brother Jeremy say, “All rise.”

I watched from the doorway as people begin to stand. They began turning their heads towards the back of the sanctuary. 

They were looking for me.

I think one of the reasons that a father walks his daughter down the aisle is not just because it’s symbolic, but also to make sure she makes it down the aisle.

I know I couldn’t have made it down on my own.

I heard the piano start to play the strong and thunderous chords of God of Our Fathers.

This was it.

Slowly, my dad and I stepped through the double doors.

I felt my lip and chin begin to quiver as we aligned ourselves with the center aisle.

Was I going to be able to do this?

And then, I saw him. 

Grant looked tall and sharp in his Marine Corps uniform.

His black shoes shined and his golden uniform buttons glimmered.

But nothing could compare to the beam of his face when his eyes met mine.

Grant had the biggest smile on his face that I had ever seen. He didn’t look nervous or apprehensive. He just looked happy. So happy.

And now, I was smiling uncontrollably too.

Suddenly, I could feel and see again.

And I began to not only know how special and important this moment in our lives was, but I began to take it in.

As my dad and I made our way down the long aisle, my eyes were fixated on one person alone: Grant Castleberry.

As we reached the front of the church, the music stopped.

For a long moment, there was dead silence as we stood there at the front of the church. It was almost as if time stood still as everyone held their breath and waited for what was about to take place.

And then my brother asked, “Who gives this bride to be married?

And I heard my dad answer, “Her mother and I.”

My dad lifted my veil and kissed me on the cheek. I couldn’t believe he was giving me away.

As I stood there with the tears falling, my dad gently took my hand and led me to Grant. He placed my hand in Grant’s hand.

I hadn’t expected my dad to do that, to lead me to Grant. It struck me as such a visible symbol of what was taking place.

My dad had protected me and had taken care of me since I was a little girl, and now he was entrusting me to the protection of Grant.

Grant grasped my hand tightly, and I found courage.

Together, we climbed the stairs to the altar.

We faced one another, as my dad’s voice begin to resonate throughout the sanctuary,

Dear friends, we are gathered here together in the presence of Almighty God and His holy angels, to unite Grant Robert Castleberry and GraceAnna Maude Broggi in holy matrimony.”

“At the dawn of human history,” he proceeded, “God saw the need of a man for a woman, and a woman for a man. And after God had evaluated each dimension of His creation, six times over He said it was good. But then after He created Adam, He said it was not good. 

My dad looked down at his open Bible as he continued,

“God said in Genesis 2,  ‘It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.’ Out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the sky, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all the cattle, and to the birds of the sky, and to every beast of the field, but for Adam there was not found a helper suitable for him. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then He took one of his ribs and closed up the flesh at that place. The LORD God fashioned into a woman the rib which He had taken from the man, and brought her to the man. The man said,
‘This is now bone of my bones,
And flesh of my flesh;
She shall be called Woman,
Because she was taken out of Man.’

For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.”

I listened to the words that my dad read from the creation account. And though I had heard them so many times before, it felt like I was hearing it for the very first time.

I thought about the fact that marriage was God’s design from the beginning. It was His idea. And He was the One who performed the very first marriage ceremony.

And God had designed me to be a “helper suitable” for Grant. We were equal, and yet, God had a special role for each of us.

We bowed our heads as my dad thanked God for sovereignly bringing us together. My heart overflowed with gratitude to God, because I knew, that he had indeed brought Grant and I together.

Our hearts joined in worship as we sang one of our favorite hymns, There is a Redeemer.

My brother, Grant, read one of our favorite verses, John 7:37-39.

“If anyone is thirsty, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.’”

Then my dad gave the most encouraging and challenging sermon about the seriousness of the commitment we were about to make to one another and the beauty of marriage as it reflects Christ and the church.

First, my dad looked at me and charged me to be Grant’s helper and to submit to Grant’s leadership. He began to clarify the highly misunderstood term of “submission.” My dad explained that Jesus is our perfect example of submission. He is equal with the Father, and yet He submits to the Father.

“A home needs a head.” My dad continued, “Without a head, its dead, and if there’s two heads, you have a monster.”

He went on to share that submission is necessary in every facet of society in order for it to function in a healthy way.

Then, my dad turned to Grant. He charged him to be a “servant-leader.” He told Grant that his love for me was to be revealed in sacrificial leadership. He was to love me as his own body.

My dad looked directly at Grant as he spoke, “On this day, I am passing the baton with my wife, Audrey. We are giving you now the responsibility to protect her, to nourish her . . .”

My dad’s voice broke for a moment. I felt the tears rising again as I realized what a special moment this was.

My dad continued, “and to take care of her. And I know you will give your very, very best. And when you love GraceAnna, you really love yourself, because the two become one. So really, whatever you do to GraceAnna, you do to yourself.”

My dad went on further to explain the equality of our persons and the differences in the way that God created us from 1 Peter 3:7 which says that the woman is the “weaker vessel.”

He then asked a series of questions to help us understand the passage.

What’s weaker? Fine japanese silk or burlap? Is burlap better than silk?”

“What’s weaker? Cast iron or gold? Is gold inferior to cast iron?”

“What’s weaker? Porcelain or stainless steel?” 

“Now with porcelain you can make a fine china cup and with stainless steel you can make a high quality hammer, but you can’t drink out of a hammer and you can’t drive nails with a cup. 

“God made you different, he gave you different roles that He might make you one.”

And then my dad asked a question that I will never forget, “Why is submission so very important and why is sacrificial love so critical? Because it illustrates the sacrificial love Christ has for His people.”

“As you know,” he went on to explain, “One of the great misconceptions of Christianity is that you can earn your way to heaven. That if somehow the good outweighs the bad, God will say, ‘Come on in!’ But the Apostle Paul said, ‘If a man could be saved by his good deeds, than there was no need for Christ to die.’ Christ’s death was not a mistake, it was not an act of martydom, it was a choice that He made. He chose sacrificially to give himself for us.”

My dad turned to Grant and said, “In the same way you are to sacrificially love GraceAnna.

He turned to me and said, “And you, GraceAnna, are to mimic the Lord Jesus as well.”

“And the only way that you can do that,” he said now, looking at both of us, “is in God’s strength.”

I had thought before the wedding, that I would probably be too nervous to really listen to my dad’s sermon. But I heard every word of my dad’s charge to us. 

It hadn’t been just a few short and sweet words about marriage, it had been a solemn challenge.

As my dad closed his sermon, Grant took my hands in both of his.

And he started to tell me, before God, and everyone present that he would always love me, that he would always take care of me through the good times and the bad, and that the only thing that would ever separate his commitment to me was death.

Grant stared unflinchingly into my eyes as he spoke and I knew that he meant every word.

I watched as he slipped the gold ring onto my finger.

And then it was my turn.

For a moment, the thought crossed my mind . . . Am I ready for this?

I knew that there would be no going back. I was about to make a solemn vow before God to always love the man that stood in front of me until death separated us.

This man, who just a year ago, had seemingly dropped out of nowhere.

This man, who so naturally, had become my best friend.

This man, who God had so clearly brought into my life.

I took Grant’s hand in mine and stared into his eyes.

God, this is it. I prayed silently. I promise to be committed to Grant until death separates us.

Grant’s gaze was still fixated on me. And I began to promise him that I would love him, respect him, submit to him, and take care of him.

I slipped the gold band that had once belonged to Grant’s father onto his finger.

We stood there, staring at one another in astonishment as my dad proclaimed,

“I now pronounce you man and wife. What God has joined together, let no man separate.”

“Now I can’t think,” my dad continued, “of a better way to begin your marriage, than in prayer.”

to be continued…

Texas Heart – Part 32 {The Wedding}

Light shone brightly through the slightly clouded glass of the small upstairs window in the old Pinckney Retreat plantation home.

I could hear birds singing as I slowly awoke from the exhausted state of sleep I had been in.

I abruptly sat up when I realized that it was my wedding day.

I jumped out of bed and made my way over to the window eave. I couldn’t believe that the weather was so perfect.

“It’s a beautiful day!” I exclaimed excitedly to my mom who was also just waking up.

Neither of us could fall sleep the night before, so we had stayed up talking into the wee hours of the morning.

Originally I had planned to stay the night with some of my bridesmaids, but in the end, it had worked out that it was just my mom and me. And I was glad for it.

The week had been so busy with all the last minute wedding details that we had hardly had time to talk.

It was a bittersweet time together. In a sense, I was saying good-bye to a certain aspect of our relationship.

I was about to step into the role of Grant’s wife and move far away.

Even though at times I wondered if I was prepared for what lay ahead of me, I knew my mom had been preparing me for this day for a long time.

I stared out the window at the treetops that were slightly swaying in the marsh breeze.

I had dreaded the thought of waking up to rain on my wedding day and I had half expected it to be dreary when I woke up.

The weather had called for it, and I had been less than optimistic.

But no matter how hard I tried, my hopes had been high for a clear day. It was my wedding day after all.

Thank you God for giving Grant and I this beautiful day! I pray that You would be honored today.” I whispered.

I started gathering my things and getting ready to head to the church where I would get my hair and make-up done. I was filled with nervousness and excitement. By the end of the day, I would be a Castleberry.


My mom tied the yellow satin sash around my waist and fastened the last buckle on my gold peep toe shoes.

She stepped back and looked at me in the small church room where I had gotten dressed.

I couldn’t believe I was wearing my wedding dress.

“You look beautiful,” my mom said with tears in her eyes.

I glanced into the mirror and felt my heart jump. Like most girls, I can usually find something in my reflection to regard as less than perfect.

But not today.

I loved the way two dear women from our church had fixed my hair and make-up.

I loved the way my pearly barrette was tucked “just so” into my hair.

I loved the way the tiny golden beads on my veil glistened in the sunlight that filtered in through the window.

I loved that my wedding dress felt light and airy and looked so creamy white.

I loved the way the bows on my golden peep-toe shoes slightly poked out from the hem of my dress.

As I looked at my mom, my eyes brimmed with tears too.

How in the world was I going to make it through the day?

I was so excited, but I was nervous as well.

I kept thinking about so many things.

I thought about the first time Grant told me howdy and how he had flown all the way from Japan to see me.

And now, this moment would also soon become a memory; a memory that would be a part of my life forever.

“GraceAnna,” I heard my dad whisper.

I turned at the sound of his voice and looked at him. The tears that were brimming in my eyes now started to fall, making a trail through my make-up.

You look beautiful, ” my dad said smiling. I could tell he was trying to hold back the tears too.

“Look,” he said grabbing my hand. “Today is going to be a great day! We are going to make it through this and have fun.”

I think my dad knew what I  needed to hear at this moment in my life. I needed his encouragement. I needed to take a deep breath and still my knocking knees.

“I just saw Grant out in the hallway,” my dad continued,  “he looks so excited.”

I broke out in a smile as I thought about Grant. Soon to be my Grant.

My dad stepped out of the room for a moment and my mom gathered the bridesmaids together for a word of prayer.

When we were done, I no longer felt scared or nervous. Instead I felt excited.

My dad walked back into the room, “It’s time.”

The bridesmaids filed out of the small room and toward the sanctuary.

As we got closer, I could hear the music playing.

I held on to my dad’s arm tightly and I could feel my heart pulsating through my entire body.

This was the moment I had been waiting for.

to be continued….
{I’m almost finished with Texas Heart . . . I’m glad I didn’t know that it was going to take me this long to write it or I probably never would have started! Looking forward to finishing the last post(s) . . . for those of you still reading along!}

Texas Heart – Part 31 {Dawning of the Day}

What’s that?” Grant asked as he looked down at the cream colored envelope I held in my hands.

Grant had just arrived at Pinckney Retreat, where my mom and I were staying the night on the eve of our wedding day.

Even though it was late, I had asked Grant to meet me there. I had something I wanted to give him.

I struggled to find words to answer Grant’s question. A flood of memories filled my mind as I thought about the envelope in my hand.

I thought about my college dorm room where I spent so much time praying and thinking. I thought about  my runs around the Clemson campus where I thought about my future and prayed for God’s will to be done in my life. I thought about the bench on the small hill in the Botanical Gardens where I sat  and cried when I felt like nothing was working out in my life like I had hoped and planned. These were memories that I knew would be difficult to ever explain to Grant.

These memories were interwoven into what I was about to give Grant. They were apart of who I was now.

I glanced down at the envelope in my hands. It looked thick, but in fact, there were only five letters inside. Five letters that I had written to my future husband over the span of my four years in college.

It was something I had started my freshman year after hearing about how my Bible study leader had started the practice.

I was hesitant to do it. I worried that my “future husband” might think it was silly. I worried that I might not ever get married and that the letters would become a testament to an unfulfilled desire.

But I had decided not to second-guess and over-analyze myself. I had decided in the Fall of 2004 to write a letter to the man that I hoped God had for me. Over the next three years I would write four more.

They weren’t long. And they were more like prayer letters than anything else.

Each time I had written one had been during a time when I was struggling with loneliness and the desire to get married.

Just a few minutes before Grant had arrived to meet me at Pinckney, I had pulled out the most recent letter I had written and read through it. It was dated September 2007.

One section of it read,
. . .I am praying for you tonight. I am praying you will find me! I want you to know that I will respect your leadership in my life. I will submit to you. I will encourage you. I will go with you wherever you feel God calling you. I can promise you these things because our God is able to give me the strength to do them. Waiting for you is hard, but also so good. God is growing me into the woman He desires me to be. . .When I write these letters, somehow its an expression of my faith in God for His best in my life. I never want to lose that trust. . .

As I scanned some of the other letters, it seemed that all along I had been writing to Grant.

In 2005 I wrote,
Be faithful, be bold, let Jesus Christ be glorified in you. I can’t wait to one day see all the great things God is doing in your life. Don’t worry, I’m not going to settle for anyone but you, even if it means I never meet you, even if it means that marriage isn’t God’s calling for me!  Anyway, I am trusting God for His timing.

I had folded the letters up and put them back in the envelope as I had waited for Grant to arrive.

Now he was here.

He was my future husband. He was the one that God had put on my heart to pray for during college.

“Well, it’s actually some letters I wrote to you.” I finally responded to Grant’s question. “Letters I wrote to you before I knew you.”

Grant’s smile widened as he reached for the envelope.

I watched as he read each one. It felt kind of funny handing them over to him. What would he think?

As I watched Grant read them, I realized that the letters themselves weren’t really that important. For the most part, they were just a young woman’s ramblings of her future hopes and dreams.

But those five letters represented something. They represented an answered prayer. They represented to me a God who had placed a desire in my heart and fulfilled it.

Thank you, GraceAnna.” Grant said as he closed the last letter and looked at me. “I will treasure these for as long as I live.”

I smiled. I was so glad that he didn’t think they were silly.

“You’re welcome.“I said.

We sat on the edge of the brick porch for a while, seeing only the stars and moon and hearing random noises from the salt marsh.

We were both tired, but we were so happy. We were on the cusp of something big.

We sat there until the clock passed midnight and our wedding day dawned.

“I better go,” Grant said with a smile on his face. “Can’t wait to see you at the alter.”

As he walked away into the darkness, I listened to the sound of his cowboy boots thud against the old stone walkway. I listened until I heard his car door slam and the sound of his engine pull out of the drive.

I sat there alone in the dark for a few more minutes.

“Thank you, God. Thank you for this.”

I went inside and climbed up the narrow wooden staircase that led upstairs. My mom was already in bed and I slid in next to her and tried to sleep.

But the sleep wouldn’t come.

“Mom, are you awake?”

“Yes,” she replied.

to be continued. . .

Texas Heart – Part 30 {Built to Last}

The crickets were chirping as I sat alone on the brick steps of the old plantation home at Pinckney Retreat. It was close to midnight on the eve of our wedding day.

It had been a full and eventful day, beginning with the memorial service for Grant’s dad, and ending in a Texas style rehearsal dinner put on by Grant’s family.

The meal had been what Grant called, “phenomenal” as we were served beef brisket, pork sausage, coleslaw, potato salad, beans and sweet tea. All of Grant’s family had pitched in to make the dinner special, including Grant’s Grammie and Papa, who had smoked all the BBQ for the dinner to ensure it was up to Texas standards.

I don’t think there was a single member of Grant’s family or friends present who weren’t wearing cowboy boots. And even some of the South Carolinians were sporting boots in the wooden lodge where the dinner was held.

I thought about how wonderful the day had been as I sat on the steps waiting for Grant. I was staying the night with my mom at Pinckney Retreat and I had told Grant that I had something that I wanted to give him.

Pinckney Retreat is an old plantation in Beaufort where our wedding reception would be held in less than twenty-four hours.

A canopy of ancient live oak trees draped in Spanish moss covers the long driveway that leads to the plantation home.

The home is fairly small and faces the salt marsh. It was built in 1736 and has amazingly been preserved all these years.

The home survived Sherman’s march through the South because reportedly a Bible had been found hidden under the front porch when Sherman’s troops were preparing to burn it down.

The owner of the home at the time was a minister. He had fled the area with his wife and nine children because of the war.

When one of Sherman’s soldiers came across the Bible, he showed it to the general, who surprisingly, decided not to burn the home.

For years, I had seen the “Pinckney Retreat” sign that hangs at the entrance to the plantation, but I had never been beyond the front gate. It had always been closed to visitors, but had just recently opened up to the public.

Conveniently, the plantation is located just a mile or so from our church.

The first time I saw the inside of the plantation earlier that summer; I fell absolutely in love with it. I had always wanted an outdoor wedding reception, and the natural beauty of the plantation property was everything that I had ever imagined for my wedding.

It perfectly captured the beauty of the Lowcountry that I have grown up loving.

The plantation backs up to the salt marsh, and it looks so much like my parents’ backyard where I grew up.

In fact, my family had originally explored options of having our reception in my parents’ backyard or in a friend’s backyard. We were trying to keep the reception simple to keep costs down, and because we were also going to have a small reception at the church in the fellowship hall immediately following the ceremony.

But when it came down to the logistics of the reception, we realized that a public venue would be more practical.

And when I saw Pinckney Retreat for the first time, I knew it was perfect. I looked at my dad and said, “Please?”

It was the first time I had specifically asked my dad for something in the entire wedding planning process. I was committed to keeping things as simple and budget-conscious as possible.

And while it wasn’t very expensive to rent the retreat, it was more than a free backyard would cost.

I said “please” and my dad said “yes.” I knew he said yes because he knew how much it meant to me. I couldn’t have been happier. It was my dream wedding reception location. I thanked him over and over again.

Of course, my dad didn’t fail to let me know that if I had had sisters, my “dream” Pinckney Retreat wedding reception would not be possible. While I had always wanted a sister, I guess this was one scenario where I was thankful to be an only daughter. My dad only had to pay for one wedding.

As our wedding week approached, there was one thing that this “dream” outdoor location couldn’t accommodate – rain. All week, we had heard reports of predicted rain for Saturday.

We were going to have several white tents on the plantation property, but not enough to cover all our guests if it were to pour.

I prayed and I prayed for sunny weather. Lord, you wouldn’t have provided this perfect outdoors location if it were going to rain, right?

But I couldn’t worry about the weather now, especially the night before my wedding.

I still sat in the glow of the porch light waiting for Grant. I stared out at the salt marsh that was blanketed in darkness except for the few stars glowing above it.

I couldn’t believe that I was getting married in the morning. It was surreal. It was my last night being GraceAnna Broggi. It was bittersweet.

GraceAnna!” Grant called to me as he rounded the porch on the old stone walkway.

“Hi!” I said smiling, suddenly nervous.

“What’s that?” He asked as he looked at the thick envelope that I held in my hands.

To be continued….

To read more about the history of Pinckney Retreat, click here.

Texas Heart – Part 29 {A Firm Hand}

“Dad, I just want you to know how much I love you,” I shared as I burst into tears. My dad and I were riding alone together in the car the afternoon before our wedding rehearsal.

I was so excited to be getting married to Grant, but I also had been holding in so much emotion. There had just been so much change in my life that had happened so quickly and there was much more change to come.

In barely over a year, I had moved officially away from home, started dating Grant, moved back home for the summer to plan our wedding, and was now preparing to marry Grant and move to Japan.

It was a lot. And as wonderful as it was, at times it was hard.

I’m not typically a person that embraces change readily. Once the change has occurred and I’m on the other side of it, I’m great. But it’s the transition part that I’ve always struggled with.

And this was by far the hardest transition of my life. I was getting married and moving very far away from home with a guy that I had only spent around twenty days with in person.

I didn’t have any doubts. Grant’s character and love for me had been proven and I knew that God had brought him into my life. God couldn’t have made that any clearer.

But in a way, I felt like I was saying good-bye to a part of my life that I would never get back again.

I would always be my dad’s daughter, but it wouldn’t be quite the same.

Grant was about to become my husband and replace many of the roles that my father had filled in my life.

The funny thing was, I couldn’t believe it was actually happening. For a long time, I wasn’t sure any guy would ever make it through my dad’s screening process. My dad was so firm when it came to guys that had wanted to date me.

I still remember my “utter devastation” when I was fifteen years old and my dad told the young man who wanted to pursue me (but was moving away) that he could only call me once a month.

Call me once a month? How could he be so unloving? I had thought to myself. When my dad set those guidelines for that “relationship,” I knew even in my immature fifteen year-old head that the relationship would never last.

But my dad knew something that I didn’t: I was too young to get entangled in a serious dating relationship.

When I was in college, I had the freedom to go on dates and spend time with different Christian guys. But in the back of my mind I would always think, “What would my dad think of this guy?” or “Could this guy talk theology with my dad? Or politics or finances with my brothers?”

I didn’t want to marry a clone of my dad or brothers, but I wanted to marry a guy who sure was a lot like them.

They had set a standard of character that I needed my future husband to meet.

But while I often thought that the high standard and strict rules that my dad had set for me were frustrating; now that Grant was in my life, I realized how good they really were.

Because that’s what a loving father does – a loving father protects his children. And that’s what our heavenly Father does for us. Sometimes God’s standards from His word seem hard. And following Him isn’t always easy, but it’s always for our good.

As we follow His will for our lives and pursue Him with all of our hearts, we find a deep, satisfying joy that nothing else could ever give us.

One time in high school, when I was upset about a relationship that didn’t work out, my mom told me something that I have never forgotten. She told me that if God “meant it to be,” that I didn’t have to force the circumstances, but that one day God would bring that guy back into my life.

Trusting the simple truth that God is in control and sovereign over the circumstances in our lives, keeps us as Christians from wondering constantly about all the “what ifs?”

What if I had married my high school sweetheart? Or, what if I hadn’t married my high school sweetheart? What if I had gone to college? What if I had only been at the right place at the right time . . .maybe then I wouldn’t be single? Or, if I hadn’t been at the right place at the right time, maybe I wouldn’t have married this person?

I’m so thankful that when we walk with the Lord, we don’t have to live in a world of “what ifs?” Whatever mistakes we may have made in the past, or wrongdoings that were made against us, we can say with Joseph from the Old Testament, “God meant it for good.”

So, as I sat next to my dad that day in the car, I was so thankful. I was thankful that because of his protection, I was now marrying someone truly amazing.

Grant Castleberry was my new standard.

“GraceAnna,” my dad replied with tears in his eyes, “I love you too. You are going to do great.”

I took a deep breath. My dad was telling me the words I needed to hear to have the emotional strength to take this new and unknown step in my life.

My whole life he had protected me until the right guy came along, and now he was about to give me away.

To be continued…