Texas Heart -Part 28 {No Compromise}

It was pretty hot outside as Grant and I stood with our families around Grant’s father’s memorial marker in the Beaufort National Cemetery.

Thankfully, the giant live oaks around us provided some shade from the midday heat.

Both sides of our families were there for the small memorial service Grant had planned in honor of his father on the day before our wedding.

Everyone chatted until Grant’s voice broke the conversations as he welcomed everyone and thanked them for coming.

“I thought since everyone was in town this weekend, it would be a great time to get together and remember my dad and honor his life,” Grant began.

“What I want to spend a few minutes talking about today is the importance of finishing the Christian life well. The great apostle Paul said at the end of his life in 2 Timothy 4:7,  “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.’

A lot of people start the Christian life well, but they fail to finish well.

The Christian life is a journey,” Grant continued, “Just like John Bunyan talked about in his classic story, ‘Pilgrim’s Progress.’”

We are constantly faced with challenges and hardships that test our faith.

To help us run the race well, I think it’s important for us to remember other Christians who have lived their lives fully for Christ.

And that’s why I want to remember my dad today. I know he wasn’t a perfect man, as some of you here can attest.” Grant cast a smile over at Kelly’s brother and sister who were present.

“But my dad did live a life of faith until the very end. He left me a godly legacy, and for that, I’m so thankful.”

I could see tears starting to well up in Grant’s eyes as he spoke.

“There have been so many people who have come up to me throughout the years and have told me how much of an impact my dad made in their lives.”

Grant then held up a picture frame that he had been holding by his side, “I’d like to pass this photograph around and just share a quick story about my dad for those of you who didn’t know him.”

Grant handed the picture frame to my dad who was standing next to him, and it slowly started to make its way around the group as Grant began to share his story.

As y’all know, my dad was an 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.

After the weekend was over, when my dad arrived home to my mom, she could tell he was upset. My mom asked him what was wrong. He went on to explain how awful the function was. The function turned wild, and unbeknownst to him, strippers were brought into the party.

My mom asked him what he did. My dad 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?’ My mom had asked; not because she didn’t believe him, but just because it was hard to believe that he was able to do that in a crowded party with so much temptation. But my dad told her that he had.

After my dad died, someone gave my mom this photograph that I have here with me today.”

The picture reached me and I looked at the photograph that I had seen once before. It was a picture of his dad at the party. While you can’t see the strippers, you can see Grant’s dad in the back of the room, with his hand over his eyes.

I looked over at Grant’s family as he shared. I didn’t see a dry eye. Kelly hadn’t just been Grant’s dad; he had been a brother, a son, a husband, a son-in-law, a brother-in-law, and a friend to those who stood there.

“I share this story with you,” Grant continued, “because it’s a classic example of some of the challenges that we as Christians face on a daily basis. But just like my dad, God will give us the grace to respond like Christ.”

Grant’s voice was heavy with emotion, the way it often gets when he talks about his dad, and I could no longer see him clearly through my own blur of tears.

“That’s all I wanted to share today. Thank you so much for coming.”

Grant then asked a childhood friend of Kelly, Cliff, who was in town for the wedding, to share a few stories about his dad.

After Cliff shared, my dad closed in prayer. He thanked God for Kelly’s life and for the godly legacy that he had left Grant and all of us. He prayed that all of us would live our lives fully for Christ until the end.

It was a short service, and maybe what some people might think was an odd thing to do on a weekend of joyful wedding festivities. But I knew that what my soon-to-be husband shared that day not only brought honor to his dad, but it brought honor to Christ.

It hadn’t been easy for Grant to open up to everyone and share his thoughts about his dad. But he had felt like God had wanted him to do it, and I loved him even more for that.

I smiled as I thought about the legacy that Kelly had left for Grant. But what made me smile more was that even though Kelly died when Grant was just a toddler, Grant had become so much like him.

Grant’s life could have been so different if his dad hadn’t been a strong Christian. His dad could have died, leaving no legacy at all. Grant could have been just another sad fatherless child statistic.

But God was faithful. And just like the verse says that Grant’s mom had clung to and taught Grant ever since he was little, God is a “father to the fatherless.”

He had provided Grant with another father who raised Grant the way that he thought Kelly would have wanted Grant to be raised.

And now, as I watched Grant stand there as a grown man, I realized that God had brought things full circle.

He had done what He always does, He had worked all things together for good.

Everyone was talking again and sharing stories as people began dispersing from the service.

“Hey, are you okay?” Grant asked me as he walked over to me and noticed my tear streaked face.

“I’m great.” I said, as I grasped his hand.

Grant smiled at me and then said, “I’m going to go get some BBQ with the guys. See you tonight at the rehearsal.”

I took a deep breath. “See you tonight.”

To be continued. . .

Texas Heart – Part 27 {No Empty Words}

I sat in the passenger seat of my car as Grant drove down the long oyster shell road that led to his dad’s memorial marker in the Beaufort National Cemetery.

It was August 21st, the day before our wedding, and Grant had planned a special memorial service in honor of his father. It was the first time all of his family had been back in Beaufort since the first memorial service that was given for his dad the year after his plane crash.
Grant had just flown in from Japan the day before. 
The two months of summer between our trip to Alaska and our wedding had been really busy for me.
It had been a stressful and wonderful summer all at the same time. It was stressful when I thought about all that needed to be done in preparation for our wedding and my new life with Grant, but wonderful as I saw God work out all the details for everything.
I felt overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity that so many people from our church showed my family. There was no way to properly thank everyone who offered to help.
From the flowers, the food, the music, the invitations, the photography, the cake, and even down to the young people who offered to be servers at our reception, the kindness of our friends was more than we could have imagined. And I could go on and on.
I knew that our wedding was going to be wonderful because of all the people who were giving of their time and talents.
And I knew that I didn’t deserve any of it.
But the beauty of all those things could not compare with the excitement I felt over the vows that Grant and I were about to make to one another.
I have always felt that the aesthetic adornments of a wedding find their true beauty when they are not ends in themselves, but when they are reflections of a deeper beauty.
And that deeper beauty was the covenant that Grant and I were about to make before God. It was the answered prayers of our parents. It was our thankfulness to God that He had been preparing our hearts for one another long before we ever knew it. It was a day to acknowledgement His perfect gift of giving us each other, so that we could serve Him together.
I so wanted our friends and family who attended our wedding to sense that deeper beauty. I wanted them to feel God’s presence at our ceremony. And Grant and I both wanted every aspect of our wedding day to point to Christ – the One who had saved us and given us a purpose for living.
Because of that, Grant and I put a lot of thought into planning our ceremony.
One thing that we are extremely thankful for is that both sets of our parents have marriages that reflect Christ and that they have been faithful to the vows that they made on their wedding day (including Grant’s dad, Kelly, and his father now, Preston).
After much thought, Grant and I chose to use the same vows that my mom and dad had written for their ceremony when they got married in 1980.
We also chose two “special music” songs for our ceremony. The first song was one that Grant and I had both grown up loving. It was Keith Green’s “Make My Life a Prayer to You.”  When I was a freshman in college, I had written out the lyrics to this song as a prayer in the front cover of my Bible.
When Grant and I were dating, he told me that he used to listen to that same song over and over again in high school. The song became even more special to us when we realized that God had used it in both of our lives separately.
We also chose a song that was been sung at my parent’s wedding called, “I Could Never Promise You.” The song speaks of how we can never love one another in marriage the way that we should without Christ’s strength.
We were also including something in the ceremony that was important to us in another way.
It was Grant’s father’s wedding band. It was the band that his mom, Susan, put on Kelly’s finger on their wedding day in 1983 when they promised to love and be faithful to one another until death parted them.
When they got married, I know neither of them ever imagined that death would visit their marriage so soon. But it did.
But even in three short years of marriage, Kelly and Susan demonstrated a life of faithfulness to one another and to Christ.
I knew Grant was honored and excited to wear his dad’s wedding band, even now, 23 years after his death.
Grant and I had already engraved our wedding date next to his parents on the inside of the ring.
It was a reminder to both of us that we were to love one another until death separated us.
I looked over at Grant as we were nearing the end of the oyster shell road that led to his father’s memorial marker.
I could see that the cars of most of our family members were already parked under the giant live oaks that grow throughout the cemetery.
Grant parked the car. We sat there for a moment.
“Are you okay?” I asked Grant.
“Yeah, I’m fine. This is just a big day for me.”
Grant was serious and I could tell he was holding back emotion.
“GraceAnna, I know God took my dad to heaven for a reason, but sometimes it’s hard. I just wish he could be here.”
Grant and I both smiled, knowing that we wouldn’t be in the cemetery if his dad were alive, but I knew what he meant. He wished his dad could be there for our wedding.
Of course, Grant doesn’t mean that he would want to change anything about his family life now. He has the best family in the world, but it doesn’t mean that he somehow wishes that his dad could be here.
“Grant, your dad would be so proud of you. I know you are going to honor him today in such a special way. And in doing so, you will honor Christ. I’m praying for you.”
“Thanks, GraceAnna.” Grant took a deep breath and opened the car door.
To be continued . . .

Texas Heart Part 26 {The Last Good-bye}

Grant and I stood in the giant airplane hanger on Elmandorf Air Force Base in Alaska. Grant was about to board a C-130 with his marines and fly to Fairbanks to conduct another Marine Corps exercise.
His time in Anchorage was over, and so was our time together. My flight was leaving Anchorage later that evening.
As we stood in the hanger, it was difficult to hear each other over the loud roar of the airplane engines.
I looked at Grant as he stood there in his camouflage and combat boots. I could tell by his serious expression on his face that his mind was already engaged on the work he had ahead of him. That was something that I would understand more fully later – how my Marine husband would say good-bye to me long before he actually left. Whether it was just for a few days or a few months, he would get focused on the work ahead of him and couldn’t relax until it was over.
 I felt a lump form in my throat as we stood there. I hated saying good-bye.
The next time I would see Grant would be at our wedding in two months. After our wedding, I knew my life would be so different. I would no longer be a single woman under my dad’s protection. I would be a Marine Officer’s wife; and in the future, a seminary student’s wife, and eventually a Pastor’s wife. I didn’t know where that would take us, or the challenges that it would bring. I just knew everything was about to change.
Planning and looking ahead to our future was something that we had talked a lot about the past week we had been together in Alaska. 
Our first year of marriage was going to be far from typical. After we got married and went on our honeymoon, Grant would immediately be starting a very intense training school in Yuma, Arizona.
Normally, husbands don’t bring their wives to this school because the hours that they work are so long, and it’s only 2 1/2 months long. But because we would be newly married and establishing ourselves as a married couple, Grant wanted to bring me with him, and I wanted to go.
He had already found a small one-bedroom apartment just a few minutes from base. After our time in Yuma, we would fly straight to Japan. We would be there for a few months before Grant had to leave on a deployment. I would most likely fly back to the states while he was away.
Needless to say, our first year of marriage was going to include a ton of traveling. I knew that living out of a suitcase wasn’t going to be easy. I couldn’t deny that it scared me a little bit to know that there were so many “unknowns” about our future in the Marine Corps.
But one thing I did know was that the man that stood before me loved me with all his heart and was committed to providing for me for the rest of my life.
After all, that’s what he had told me in his third or fourth letter to me after we had started dating. After just a few months, Grant had told me that he wanted to marry me, provide for me, raise a family with me, do ministry with me, and take care of me for as long as God gave me breath on this earth.
And when I read those words in that letter that day, I knew he meant every single one of them.
“GraceAnna, I hate saying good-bye to you.” Grant spoke loudly so that I could hear him over the engine noise. “Listen, don’t be sad because next time I see you, we won’t have to say good-bye anymore because you are going to become my wife!”
Grant leaned close to me and whispered, “Sure wish I could kiss you right now.” We had decided months before to wait until our wedding day to share our first kiss.
So instead Grant squeezed my hands, looked at me, and said, “Babe, I’ve got to go.”
I watched as he slowly backed away, still facing me, then turned and started jogging towards the C-130 where the other Marine were waiting.
Our time in Alaska together had been so good for us. In fact, now the number of days we had spent together was up to over twenty total.
Grant was with the other marines now and I tried to distinguish him amidst the camouflage.
Then I saw him raise his hand to get my attention. He flashed one last smile at me before boarding the plane.
As I got in the car, I watched as the grey C-130 made it’s way down the runway. I prayed that God would bring Grant safely back to South Carolina in August.
I knew I couldn’t bare life without him.
To be continued…

Texas Heart Part 25 {Who Says You Can’t Go Home?}

“Grant!” I whispered loudly through the tent flap.

We were camping in Seward, Alaska with friends of family and it was sometime in the middle of the night.  I had to use the bathroom and the bathroom buildings were about a quarter of a mile down the road. I was afraid to walk there alone.

Grant, I need to go to the bathroom!” I whispered again. Please, oh please wake up! I thought to myself.

I heard him stir and mumble something.

I waited in the semi-darkness a few more moments and then realized Grant wasn’t waking up. Since we weren’t married, I didn’t feel comfortable going into his tent and waking him up in the middle of the night.

I sighed and looked down the gravel road where the bathroom was located. I knew I couldn’t wait until morning. I had to go.

I worked up my courage and started walking. Thankfully, since it was summer in Alaska, it was still pretty light.

I saw a few campfires glowing in the distance as I approached the bathrooms. I went as quickly as possible and half-ran back towards our tents, looking around for any sign of bears.

I did it! I did it! I chanted to myself.

As I rounded the last corner before our tents, I saw the dog. He was standing in the middle of the road – the road that I needed to walk down to get back to our campsite.

I froze in fear.

Ever since I was a little girl I have been afraid of dogs. I like friendly dogs once I get to know them, but whenever I see a dog I don’t know, I always jump with a twinge of fear.

When I was around seven or eight years old, my brothers and I used to spend a lot of time on a plantation near our home that some friends of ours live on.

There were lots of dogs on the plantation. Whenever they would come near and bark, I would get so scared that our babysitter, Sarah, would let me ride on her back.

It probably didn’t help that around that same time I watched a Little House on the Prairie episode where a pack of wild dogs ran rampant all over the small prairie town, hurting people and killing animals.

So, that night in Alaska, I flinched and stood still and stared at the dog that most certainly was wild and was preparing to attack.

Then my fears came true. He growled at me.

Oh no! Lord, please save me! I prayed.

I could already see the headlines: South Carolina girl mauled to death by a wild dog at Alaskan campground. 

It would be the type of thing where people would read it and say, “What was that girl doing out there anyway? She should know better than to be alone in the Alaskan wilderness.”

Then suddenly, the dog stopped growling and started wagging his tail at something around the bend that I couldn’t see.

Then I heard a voice say, “Hey boy” to the wild dog.

I let out a sigh as I waited for the dog’s owner to round the bend. I guess he’s not wild after all.

Then I saw the cowboy boots.

Grant smiled a sleepy smile at me as he rounded the corner.

The dog quietly trotted away.

He must have realized that he no longer had easy prey.

My hero! I almost exclaimed aloud.

“GraceAnna, what are you doing out here? You shouldn’t have come out here alone!”

“Oh, I know that now.” I said as I ran up to him and grabbed his hand.

Grant smiled again. “It took me a few minutes to realize that I wasn’t dreaming when you tried to wake me up.”

“I’m just so glad you woke up and saved me from that awful dog!” 

“That old mutt?” Grant asked smiling.


Grant smiled as he squeezed my hand and we approached the campsite.

“GraceAnna, get some rest. It’s still a few hours until morning.”

 “And hey,” Grant added as I started to climb back into the tent.

 I turned and looked back at him.

You’re doing pretty good out here. You’ve almost made it through the night.” He said with a wink.

I zipped up my sleeping bag and closed my eyes. I hoped that I wouldn’t have to use the bathroom again before morning.

 I also hoped that I was just imagining that I felt sick.


I sat in the truck half-crying. It was the next morning and it was rainy and cold.

“GraceAnna, I’m taking you back to Anchorage and that’s that.” Grant said matter-of-factly.

But Grant it will ruin the trip and everyone will think I’m leaving because I’m a big baby”

“It doesn’t matter what people think, GraceAnna. You are running a fever and you don’t need to stay another night outside.”

I knew Grant was right,  but I felt like I was chickening out of the camping trip.

I had so wanted to be brave and adventurous and stay out there the whole weekend like everyone else.

I had wanted to do something I’d never done before.

But I had woken up that morning feeling worse and running a fever.

I couldn’t deny it, I was miserable. And now it was raining and everything was wet.

“I’m going to talk to everyone and let them know I have to take you back, okay? They will understand.”

Grant got out of the truck and explained the situation to the families we were camping with.

They were so gracious. And no one said anything about me being a baby. At least that I could hear.

As we were heading to the truck to leave, Grant said, “Wait!” 

“What?” I asked.

“Let’s go back into your tent. I want to take a picture of something.”

I crawled back in the tent.

“Now sit right in front of your pallet. Yes, right there.” Grant said as I stooped over where I had slept the night before.

Grant snapped a picture. “Yep, just wanted to take this shot for proof that you slept outside.”

“Thanks, Grant. That will be a wonderful photo.” I said with a hint of sarcasm.

A few minutes later we were heading back to Anchorage in the warm truck.

I was already starting to feel better.

Now GraceAnna, we are going to get you well.” Grant said matter-of-factly. “I’m going to feed you a good meal, you are going to get some good sleep, and we are going to kill this fever!”

 I stared out the window as long as I could at the beautiful Alaskan mountains, but before I knew it, the thought of a warm bed that night, plus the effects of the tylenol lulled me to sleep.

“GraceAnna, wake up!” Grant’s voice awakened me.

I sat up. We were in an IHOP parking lot.

“Time for a good meal.” Grant explained.

Once inside, I stared at the menu. “I don’t really know what to get.” I said. “I never eat here.”

“You never eat here? You are really missing out! I’ll order for you.” Grant placed the order with the waitress and before I knew it there were pancakes, bacon, eggs, and hash-browns in front of me.

“Eat it all.” Grant told me.

I did.

When we left, I was already feeling so much better.

See, GraceAnna, I know you. You were just run-down from your trip out here, the time-change, and the lack of sleep. Now let’s get you to bed and you’ll be as good as gold.

Grant dropped me off at the family’s house that I was staying at.

“Get some sleep,” he said as he let me go inside.

The house was empty and we were alone.

But Grant said good-night.

I climbed in bed and and drifted off to sleep thinking about how thankful I was that I had a man who took care of me. He was already protecting and providing for me.

He got me out of the Alaskan wilderness, fed me his version of a good meal, and now I was in a warm bed instead of camping in the wet and cold.

And even though he could have taken advantage of the opportunity to be alone with me, he didn’t.

Lord, thank you for Grant Castleberry, was the last thing I thought before falling asleep.


to be continued…

Texas Heart Part 24 {Starry Skies}

Note: {I wasn’t planning on going into more details of our Alaska trip because I am trying to finish Texas Heart 🙂 But Grant insisted that I include this. So, here’s part 24.}


“Do you like camping?” Grant asked with a half-smile on his face.

We were still in Alaska, and it was approaching the last few days of my visit.

“Well . . .” I began, trying to think of how to explain my feelings on this topic in a way that wouldn’t cause Grant to immediately write me off as a prissy, girly-girl.  

“I like camping in theory. . .” I continued, trying not to smile as Grant’s half-smile turned ear-to-ear.
No, it’s not what you think!” I tried to clarify.  “I love being outdoors!” I knew it would be difficult to explain myself now. Great! I thought. What if long hikes into the wilderness and sleeping under the starry skies is something he’s always dreamed of doing with his future wife? 
“Grant, it’s not the being outside part that I have a problem with, just the sleeping outside part.” I wanted him to understand the huge difference there.

“Oh, I see,” Grant replied in a playful tone as if he was enjoying how much explanation was going into answering his question.
“Grant, it’s not that I haven’t tried to camp. I really have!” I was pleading with him now.

Now Grant had such a huge smile on his face that he was beginning to make me laugh.

I wasn’t lying about the trying part. There were quite a few nights growing up when my brothers would set up a tent in our wooded backyard to sleep outside. I would hang out in the tent until it was time to go to sleep. . .then I’d start to get scared.
I would peer out the screen flap and watch as my parents turned out the lights in the house as they went to bed.

It was so dark outside! 

I was determined to stay in the tent. We had brought games and snacks outside – all the things that make a campout fun. 
But. . .my heart was longing to go inside into the warm and safe house.
One night, I tried really hard to go to sleep in my sleeping bag when I heard a scratching noise on the side of the tent.

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

I could see the claw impressions on the thin tent lining. Any moment the terrible creature outside would most likely shred open the whole side of the tent.

After a few minutes of trembling in my sleeping bag and praying for God to make it go away, I finally couldn’t take it anymore. I unzipped the tent flap and ran as fast as I could to the house without looking back to see what creature was most assuredly chasing me. 
At the time, it never crossed my mind that the scratching was probably one of our cats.
I ran upstairs and collapsed on my wonderful, beloved bed. My bed that was right next to my parents’ room and where there were no creepy-crawly bugs or wild animals.
Ahh, safe at last!

I started to tell Grant about my failed childhood attempts at camping, but I could see that I was getting nowhere.

Okay, okay. . .” I finally decided to be honest with Grant and with myself, “Camping is not my thing.”

“Uh oh,” Grant said, still smiling. “Well, we are going camping this weekend.”

“Oh, okay.” I said slowly, waiting for Grant to explain.

Grant went on to tell me that the family I was staying with had previously planned a camping trip for this particular weekend. There was no reason for their plans to change since Grant and I had crashed them. And since Grant and I weren’t married yet, it would be inappropriate for me to stay behind at their house alone with Grant visiting every day. The best solution was for us to join them. They had been so gracious to invite us.

“It will be fine.” I quickly responded. “I’m sure I’ll have a great time.  I know I can do it.”

Grant raised his eyebrow and looked at me.

“Grant it will be great.” I was determined that this time, there would be no chickening out. I would stay the night in a tent because well, there would be no Broggi house to run inside to. We would be in the real wilderness.


We loaded up the truck with all of the camping supplies needed for the weekend. I kept telling myself constantly that I could do it and that it would be a ton of fun.

But I couldn’t ignore the fact that I didn’t feel well. I felt like I might be running a fever, but I didn’t want to say anything to Grant or to the family because I was afraid it would look like I was being a baby.

“GraceAnna, are you alright?” Grant asked as he noticed me leaning my head against the truck seat as we pulled out of the drive.

“Oh yeah, I’m fine, just a little tired.” I was hoping that was all that it was.

We started the three or so hour drive to Seward, the small fishing town that we would camp right outside of. It was evening, but it was still light, because it didn’t get dark this time of year.

Once we got out of Anchorage, the drive was breathtaking. We saw waterfalls flowing down the sides of mountains and a convocation of bald headed eagles sitting on a water bank.

I was enjoying every moment of our trip. I had never seen such wilderness beauty before. God’s creation was breathtaking and I forgot all about not feeling well.

We rounded one bend and I shouted, “Look, Grant a bear!!!”

Sure enough, there was a bear climbing up the side of a rock in the distance.

I leaned my head against the head rest again. There was no denying it, I wasn’t feeling well. But I still didn’t want to tell Grant.

Grant, I’m just going to rest for a little while.”

“That’s fine, GraceAnna. I’m just going to listen to a sermon.” Grant said as he hooked up his ipod in the small truck the two of us were driving in.

I didn’t want to sleep, I wanted to look at the beautiful scenery outside my window, but I just couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer.

I closed my eyes and tried not to think of the bear we had just spotted on the cliff.


to be continued…

Texas Heart Part 23 {Unchartered Frontier}

“Grant, what made you think of me that day last summer when you added me as a friend on Facebook? I really want to know.” Grant and I were sitting near the water’s edge in Anchorage, Alaska. 
I had flown in the night before and had been greeted at the airport by Grant in his boots and hooded fleece jacket. It was chilly in Alaska, even in the middle of the summer.
After receiving a huge hug from Grant, I noticed he was holding a big brown paper bag.
What’s that?” I asked as we started walking to the truck Grant was borrowing from some friends of Grant’s parents that I would be staying with during my visit.
Grant reached for my hand, smiling, and said, “Oh, it’s just a little gift I picked up for you.”
I loved it when Grant smiled like that. And of course I loved it when he took my hand. 
When we reached the truck, Grant handed me the bag, and I opened it up excitedly. I had no idea what it could be.
I love it!” I exclaimed as I pulled out a pale blue North Face fleece jacket. I’d never owned a North Face fleece even though it seemed that almost every girl at Clemson had one. I had always wanted one, but Grant didn’t know that.
I thought this color would look good on you and you could wear it while you’re here,” Grant explained, “Put it on.
I pulled the warm fleece over my light cotton sweater. It fit perfectly.
“I was right, it looks really good,” Grant said as he stood there staring at me.
“Thank you, Grant. Thank you for thinking of me.”

“Of course, it’s hard not to.”
I was touched that Grant had picked out the North Face jacket for me on his own.
I’ve always thought that gifts like that are unforgettable – gifts that are a complete surprise and that you love.
Let’s get going!” Grant said as he closed the passenger door and made his way around the truck to the driver’s seat.
We drove out of the parking garage. I was amazed at how light it was even though it was around 11pm at night.
Wow, I can’t believe I’m in Alaska!” I said as I stared out the window and tried to take in my surroundings.
The city of Anchorage looked pretty similar to most; though I noticed tons of trucks, and the skyline all around the city was lined with snow-capped mountains.
On top of that, it just felt different. The trees looked a little taller. The air felt a little crisper and smelled a little cleaner.
And, it just felt exciting. And I felt adventurous.
Maybe some of that excitement had to do with the fact that I was sitting next to the man that I was about to marry in just two short months. 
I glanced over at Grant. He looked like a natural out here in Alaska. He was loving it.

We took a slightly longer route back to the family’s house because Grant had seen a moose earlier that day in a wooded area, and he wanted to show it to me.
Unfortunately, the moose was long gone.
“We’ll probably see it tomorrow in this area . They like to hang out here.” Grant pointed and explained as if he was an Alaskan tour guide.
Grant pulled the truck into the drive at the family’s home. Contrary to my imagination, the family didn’t live in a cabin in the wilderness, but on an Air Force base. Their house was very normal looking, and there were no animals in sight – dead or alive.
Grant walked me to the door.
Good-night, Grant,” I said as I opened the screen door.
Grant grabbed my hand. “Wait…
I stared into Grant’s green eyes, noticing how long his eyelashes were. Why do guys always get the long lashes? 
“I love you, GraceAnna. I can’t wait to spend the next few days with you. And I can’t wait until you are my wife.”

We stood there for a few moments, enjoying the silence around us in the dusk. It was nearing midnight, and this was the darkest that the night would get.

“Okay,” Grant broke the quiet,  “Get inside before I break one of your dad’s rules.”

The “rules” that Grant was referring to was that he had promised my dad that he wouldn’t kiss me until our wedding day. Most of the time, that was an easy rule to keep since we were usually half a world apart. 
I had asked Grant once if it bothered him that my dad had set that rule. “Are you kidding me? I love it! I want it for my daughters.” 
As I closed the screen door behind me, I thought about how wonderful it was that I had a guy who respected and honored my father . . . and me. That said so much to me about his love for me. 
It was in small instances like this, times when he could have bent the rules, that his character really shone through. 
As I watched him back the truck out of the drive, I thought about how wonderful it would be when we didn’t have to say good-bye anymore.
“So, really . . .” I asked that next day, “How did you find me? What made you think of me last summer and look me up on Facebook?”
I had spent that day on the Air Force Base with the family I was staying with. They were an awesome Christian family and I enjoyed getting to know them.  I was so touched that they had welcomed me into their home even know they didn’t know me.
Grant had picked me up that evening as soon as he had finished work for the day.
We ate dinner at a pizza joint in downtown Anchorage, and now we were sitting on a little ridge, overlooking the water, on the outskirts of the city.
It wasn’t the first time I had asked Grant the Facebook question, but every time I had asked it before, Grant’s answer was always kind of vague.
Honestly, GraceAnna,” Grant began as he stared out at the water, “I don’t know. It’s like you just popped in my mind one day and I decided to see if you were on Facebook. When I looked you up and saw that your last name was still Broggi, I couldn’t believe it. I thought for sure you would be married by now.”

“Yeah, and then,” Grant continued, “After I ‘added you,’ it didn’t appear that you were dating anyone, so I thought I would say ‘hey.’ I figured if you had stayed true to the teaching of your parents, and hadn’t rebelled against them, that you must be a Godly girl.
But, I really can’t answer your question GraceAnna, I think God just put you in my mind. When I arrived in Japan with the Marine Corps, I had time to really think about things.

When I was in college, I was always just so busy. I was hanging out with people, doing the yell leader thing, and traveling. There was never a weekend or a weeknight when I didn’t have anything to do. Even my summers were packed.

But when I got to Japan, all of that changed.  Grant’s voice became serious and he shifted his gaze from the water to me. 

I was so alone. . . and lonely and I’m not a guy that likes to spend a ton of time by myself, you know me, GraceAnna. I LOVE to hang out and have a good time with people. So being alone was kind of a shock. But I think God knew I needed to experience that. 

 When I first got to Japan, I would read for hours every night. I loved that, but reading for hours every night, every day, can eventually get lonely. Dead authors, or live ones, can’t keep you real company.

But God used that time though to shape my thinking on so many things, especially marriage and family. I knew I wanted to marry not just a Godly girl, but a girl who wanted to be a wife and a mom above anything else. I wanted a girl who valued that role over a career. 

Also, I didn’t want to marry a girl who just had Jesus as one of her “interests” along with her love for Paris, shopping, and drinking coffee. I wanted a girl who was sold out for Jesus and who had a heart for ministry. 

I was so amazed as I thought about how God had been working in both of our lives, separately.

Grant’s voice became lighthearted again. “I just figured I would have to wait until I came back to the States to meet a Christian girl. I knew I wanted to have sons who are football players, so I couldn’t marry a Japanese girl,” Grant said jokingly.

 I thought I’d have to wait and meet a girl when I attended seminary. I never, ever, dreamed that I would start talking to you!”

Grant’s voice became more and more animated, the way it always does when he talks about something he’s excited about.
“GraceAnna, do you have any idea how excited I am that we are getting married!!! It was almost from the moment we started talking, I knew you were the girl of my heart.”

Now I couldn’t stop laughing at Grant’s excitement as he had jumped up from where we were sitting on the edge of the ridge and half shouted, “I am marrying GraceAnna Broggi, do you know how happy I am about that?”
Grant grabbed me and tried to start dancing with me. For some reason his conversation with me shifted to this.
Wait, what dance is this?” I asked, laughingly. I was completely confused and stepping all over Grant’s cowboy boots.
“It’s the Texas Two Step. Here, follow my lead. It’s two steps fast, then two steps slow.”
I had expected Grant to just kind of swing me around, jokingly, but I realized that he was really dancing. I’d never in my life met a guy who could dance so well.
“How in the world are you such a good dancer?”

“I used to be on a Texas dance team in high school when I attended Lake Highlands.”
What??? You are kidding me!”

“Yeah, they were called The Wranglers. Wait, now follow me. . .”
The Wranglers? I thought to myself while trying to keep up with Grant. “Like the jeans?” I asked. 
“Yeah, like the jeans,” Grant said laughing. “It was actually really competitive.”
Suddenly, we heard a loud whistle blow and a huge passenger train rounded the bend. I hadn’t even noticed that there was a train track just slightly below us on the side of the ridge.
The conductor gave us a nod and a wave. We stood there and watched the train until the last car disappeared into the wilderness.
to be continued…

Texas Heart – Part 22

10 days.
10 days was the amount of time Grant and I had spent together before we had vowed to spend the rest of our lives with each other. 
11 days if you count the day that we met in high school. Which you probably shouldn’t count because we barely said two words to one another and I thought Grant looked like a cowboy.
Which he kind of is, I guess. Minus the hat. Though he does have one.
16 days. 
16 days was the amount of time we had actually spent together after our engagement. That’s including the 10 days before our engagement.
Yeah, it wasn’t a lot of time. 

Even though we had spent months talking over the phone and video, when I thought about the actual amount of time that we’d spent together in person, it made me nervous. 
I was about to spend every day of the rest of my life married to a man with whom I’d only spent 16 days! That’s just barely over two weeks! 
In my mind, it wasn’t ideal. In most people’s minds it’s probably not ideal. 

But it didn’t bother Grant. Grant is not most people.
Grant’s next scheduled trip to America was August 20th, two days, two days before our wedding day! I wanted him to come earlier so that we could have some time together before everyone came into town and things got busy, but Grant didn’t want to take “leave” before the wedding. He wanted to use as much of his vacation time as possible for our honeymoon.
I understood that. But spending time together before our wedding was also important to me.
But I guess it just wasn’t meant to be. It was something else to trust the Lord about. Sigh.
A week or so after I found my wedding dress, I received a call from Grant.
“GraceAnna, guess what?”
The Marine Corps is sending me to the States for an Exercise!” (“Exercise” is Marine lingo for a “Mission,” and I guess “Mission” is Marine lingo for a short job? Sorry, I’m still not the greatest at explaining these things).
“You are kidding me!!!! Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed way too loudly – the way Southerners do – then I looked around to be sure no one noticed.  “Um, where?”
“Alaska? Alaska? I repeated to myself. Weren’t there wild bears and ferocious animals and lots of empty land where people become lost and confused and died? No wonder they were conducting an “Exercise” there and they needed Marines.
My heart sank. Alaska might as well be a different country. Any hopes of seeing Grant before our wedding began to fade. There was no way I’d be making a trip to Alaska.
“GraceAnna, will you come out and see me? I’ll pay for your ticket and everything.”
“Well, I mean, I’d love to, but how would that work out logistically? Where would I stay?”
“There’s a family that lives in Alaska who are friends of some of my parents’ best friends. I was thinking about calling them and asking them if you could stay there if you want to come!”
I could hear the unbelievable excitement in Grant’s voice. There wasn’t a hint of doubt or hesitation. To him, I was already coming to Alaska. Even though he hadn’t even spoken with these “friends of friends.”
“Grant, I would love to come . . . I just don’t know.”  I was hesitant. I really did want to come.  But to me, it just seemed like there were so many details to work out. Details that would be difficult to work out. 
How would we get around? Would this Alaskan family really be okay with me staying there? I imagined staying in a cabin out in the wilderness with the heads of dead animals in my bedroom. And on top of all that, what would I do while Grant was working?
“GraceAnna, talk to your parents about it. I think it would be a blast. Alaska is America’s last unchartered frontier! All the details will work themselves out. I’ll contact this family, okay?”
I didn’t know it at the time, but this conversation represented many that would take place in our future marriage. I sometimes over-analyze and over-think situations, where Grant mostly just believes that everything will work out. We need each other.
Okay,” I said as I hung up the phone. I was excited. But I knew in my heart that it would never work out.
“Hey Dad,” I asked later that day, “What would you think of me going to visit Grant in Alaska in two weeks?” I explained the whole “Exercise” situation and the wilderness family with whom I would stay. 

Of course, I knew what he would say. I knew he would tell me that I shouldn’t go. I knew he would say that it was too far away, too expensive, and too sketchy-sounding, though my dad would never use the word “sketchy.”
“I think you should go. Alaska is America’s last unchartered frontier.”
I was shocked.  Did he really just say I could go? And did he really just say “America’s last unchartered frontier?”
I stared out the airplane window at miles and miles of ice-capped mountains. Hmm. . . it definitely looked like unchartered frontier.
I wasn’t in South Carolina anymore.
But I knew I was going to have to get used to that.
to be continued . . .

Texas Heart – Part 21

“Oh, GraceAnna…” my mom whispered as we stood in the small dress shop in Charleston.

We had just walked in the door and we were both staring at a beautiful wedding dress that was displayed in the center of the store.

“It’s beautiful,” my mom continued as she walked toward the dress. 

I stood there for a moment, unable to move. I couldn’t believe the dress that was before my eyes. It was exactly what I wanted. It was exactly what I had dreamed.

My mom’s words from just an hour before echoed in my mind, “Let’s pray that if God has a different dress for you, He would just put it right in front of us.”

But this was honestly too good to be true. 

The dress must be extremely expensive, I thought. It must be way too expensive. God couldn’t have answered our specific prayer like that! He couldn’t have done it so quickly either, I mean, could He?

I stood there, unbelieving, trying to convince myself that this just wasn’t real.

I stepped toward the wedding dress, half expecting it to vanish as I got closer.

I touched the feminine ruffle collar and admired the simple silhouette of the dress. 

It was simple, different, and elegant. It was me.

As I stood there in awe, completely in my own world, I faintly heard my mom in the background ask the sales woman “How much?

I heard the woman give a one digit answer to which my mom replied, “Thousand?”

Please don’t let her say thousand.

“No, hundred,” the woman responded, “That’s the base price, then depending on how you customize…”

My heart jumped when I heard her answer. It was not only my dream dress, but I couldn’t believe it, it was less than half the price of the other dress I had ordered.

“Can I try it on?” I asked, looking toward my mom and the sales woman, knowing in my heart that this would be my wedding dress. Knowing without a doubt that God had heard my prayer.
And absolutely knowing, without a doubt, that I would love it.

Yes, of course,” the sales woman replied as she began to take it off the display.

Within minutes, I was standing in front of the full-length mirror in the dressing room. I stepped out for my mom to see.

“Oh, GraceAnna…” my mom said again. 

I felt the tears well up in my eyes as the words of Matthew 6 reverberated in my mind:

“. . .And why are you worried about clothing? . . . 

But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith! 

Do not worry then, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear for clothing? 


For the Gentiles {the world} eagerly seek all these things; for your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 


But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

I stared in awe at the dress that God had provided. Why had I ever worried?

This was the dress I would wear on the day I changed my last name from Broggi to Castleberry. 

I thought about all the times I had dreamed of this day.

I thought about all the times I had prayed for God to bring me a godly guy, wondering if getting married would ever be a reality for me.

I thought about the times that my heart had been broken over relationships that had ended or that didn’t materialize at all.

I thought about the times I had cried on the phone to my mom after being hurt and my mom saying, “GraceAnna, God obviously has something different for you. Something that will be better for you. You have to believe that.” I had to clung to those words.

I thought about those times when I felt God saying, “no”  to things that I wanted to work out.

I thought about the times when I wondered if my prayers were just hitting the ceiling.

I thought about how I had hoped that one day I would be able to give myself as a pure bride for my husband.

I thought about the first time I heard Grant’s voice over the phone.

I knew that God was doing something, something that I hadn’t expected. He was answering my prayers.

He had seen. He had heard.

And now, here I was, with a white dress on that symbolized not only God’s gift of a husband for me, but God showing me once again that He is near to His children who call on Him.

I closed my eyes and whispered the only words I could think to say, “Thank you Lord, thank you.


My cell phone rang. It was over an hour later and my mom and I were stepping out of the dress shop.

“Hi, GraceAnna! Grant exclaimed over the phone.

Hi Grant, good morning! I knew Grant was getting up early to go to work in Japan.

“Wow, you sound excited? What’s going on?”

Oh, nothing you should or can know about,” I replied smiling as I stood on the street curb.

Come on, GraceAnna? What?”

“Seriously, I can’t tell you. But I will one day.”

Okay, well I just wanted to call and tell you I love you before heading to work.”

I hung up the phone and smiled. I had two wedding dresses now.  I could be like one of those brides that changes her dress half-way through the wedding day. 

Of course, I was sending the other dress back. But it was funny to think that I had wanted to keep things simple, and now I had two dresses.

I smiled again when I thought about Grant. This was all real. I had the perfect dress to wear on my wedding day. I just knew Grant was going to love it.

to be continued…

Texas Heart – Part 20

I stood in front of the full-length mirror in my parents’ bedroom staring at my reflection. I was wearing a long dress. Not just any dress, it was the dress I had ordered to wear on my wedding day.

It was absolutely beautiful, but something didn’t seem quite right.

“What’s wrong?” my mom asked, “Don’t you like it?”

“Yes, I like it. . . I mean, it’s gorgeous. . . but . . .” and I paused trying to form my next words.

I didn’t really know what my hesitation or my thoughts were. It was a gorgeous gown. The fabric was Italian silk gazar and it had custom embroidered bands of floral applique on the bodice.

I thought the delicate applique gave the dress a vintage look, which I loved.

When it arrived and I stared at in the box, it took my breath away. I thought it was perfect.  But when I tried it on in front of the full-length mirror, something wasn’t right.

It didn’t fit me like I had thought it would. It just didn’t seem like what I had imagined I would wear on my wedding day.

I kind of knew what I wanted, but I didn’t know where to find it. I imagined a dress that was slubbed-silk, that had maybe a v-neck or off the shoulder sleeves with a gentle ruffle. I had seen a dress like that on a movie once and had loved it. I didn’t really want anything with beads or bling.

I had ordered the gown from an online store because I was short on time. Grant and I would be getting married in just a few months, so I didn’t have a lot of time to dress shop.

Plus, I really didn’t have a desire to go try on a ton of gowns.

I know, that sounds kind of weird, but shopping for a wedding dress overwhelmed me a little bit.

Sometimes I can be very indecisive about the simplest of decisions. So, the thought of going to a bridal store where there were hundreds of dresses that cost hundreds of dollars just seemed daunting.

I knew I wanted a dress that was simple, different, yet very elegant.

And of course I wanted a dress that made me look beautiful on my wedding day – of course! But I also wanted to make sure the dress that I wore honored the God who had brought me the man with whom I would spend the rest of my life.

I wanted the focus of our wedding to be Christ, for people to feel blessed and encouraged and for them to say more about the meaning of the worship service and the vows spoken, rather than asking, “Did you see her dress?”

I think that was another reason that I didn’t want to try on a ton of dresses. I was almost worried that I would get distracted from what our wedding was really about. After all, I had seen “Say Yes to the Dress” and the countless girls who leave the bridal store spending way more than they had planned.

But as I stood in front of the mirror that day, I was feeling like I was forcing myself to say yes to the dress. I felt like I should absolutely love the dress.  I wanted to be as beautiful as possible for Grant on our wedding day.

Though I didn’t understand why, I knew I didn’t love it on me.

“I do love it,” I told my mom, trying to convince myself that I was telling the truth, “I really do. It’ll be great.”


A few days later, my mom and I drove to Charleston to go shopping for a bridal veil and shoes. I had decided to keep the wedding dress and I just kept telling myself that it was the right one.

As I stared out at the marsh grass that runs alongside Highway 17, I finally blurted to my mom, “There’s just something about the dress. I don’t know what it is. It just doesn’t seem right.  I don’t know if I’m just being indecisive because it’s such a big day and everyone always makes a big deal over the wedding dress. Maybe I’m just falling into that typical desire to want ‘the best.'”

“Well, GraceAnna, here’s the thing, it is the only dress that you’ve tried on,” my mom began,  “It could be that if you tried on other dresses, you would know for sure.  Or, you could find something else that you like better. But, the point is, we don’t have a lot of time. You are getting married in just a few months.”

“I know.”

“God led you to that dress and allowed you to order it, and your dad and I want to buy it for you. It is beautiful.”

“I know” I said again, starting to feel like the spoiled American girl that I am.

“However, you know that God cares about the dress that you wear on your wedding day. And your dad and I certainly want you to love your dress. Remember Matthew 6?” My mom then began to quote the words that I also had memorized:

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?  Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your life?”

The passage brought perspective and refreshment to my heart as those words always have. It wasn’t the first time my mom had quoted it to me, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

“We just need to pray about it,” my mom continued. “Let’s pray that if God wants you to wear another dress, that it would literally ‘fall out of heaven’.” Let’s pray that we won’t have to go look through hundreds of dresses, but that if God has another dress for you, He would just put it right in front of us so that we wouldn’t have any doubts about it. In fact, let’s go ahead and pray right now.”

We bowed our heads on Hwy 17 and prayed about my wedding dress. Well I bowed my head, thankfully mom didn’t since she was driving.

I might have doubted that God could even care about something so insignificant had my parents not taught me to pray about everything since I was a young girl.

When I was 12 years old, I took piano lessons. The problem was, we didn’t own a piano for me to practice on during the week. Because of this, I had to either go to the church to practice on a piano there, or practice on my little electronic keyboard.

I had been taking lessons for several years and I wasn’t really progressing because of the practicing problem. In my mind, I needed to quit taking lessons if we weren’t able to purchase a piano, because my dad was just wasting money on the lessons.

One evening, while I was riding my bike with my mom while she ran in the neighborhood, I explained my dilemma to her.

“GraceAnna, have you asked God for a piano?” She asked.

“Well no, I haven’t” I responded honestly.

She started quoting Matthew 6 and then said, “Let’s ask God for a piano.”

“Okay, I’ll just pray that we could find some old piano that someone doesn’t want or need anymore.”

“Is that the kind of piano that you want?” Mom asked.

“Well, I mean, all I need is a piano, it doesn’t matter what I want, plus I’m not going to ask God to give me something nice.”

“Why? Don’t you think God is able to give you something nice?”

“Of course He can,” I said slowly, realizing where this was going.

“If you are going to ask God to give you a piano, why not ask him for a beautiful one? If God chooses to give you an old one, or none at all, then you need to be content in that. But ‘you have not because you ask not’.”

“Okay, I will then.”

So that evening as I rode my pink bike in the darkening light, I prayed not just for any piano, but a beautiful piano.

“Hey GraceAnna,” my mom said a few minutes later, “Let’s pray that the Lord would answer our prayer by Christmas. If He doesn’t give you a piano by then, let’s assume that it’s time for you to quit taking lessons, okay?”


“And I want you to do two things.  One, I want you to write today’s date and our request in your journal. And second, I don’t want you to tell anyone about our prayer. No one.  This is between you and me and God.  Sometimes no one needs to know except the Lord.”

As September faded into October and October brought on November, there was no sign of a piano.  Not even a hint.

One day, I said to my mom, “It’s almost Christmas,” knowing that she would know what I meant.

“But it’s not Christmas yet,” she replied.

A few days before Christmas, we were all in the kitchen eating lunch after church when my dad received a phone call.

“Who was that?” my mom asked my dad.

“Oh that was Ron and he told me about a piano over at a church.  They want to sell it. Ron says its really nice.  It’s an antique Baby Grand that has been restored.  The church is getting a new one and they need to sell this one by Christmas.”

My dad had no idea what we had prayed. Ron had no idea what we had prayed.

One afternoon a few days later, my parents went to take a look at it. I wasn’t there, but my mom called me, “GraceAnna, you will not believe it, the piano is absolutely beautiful!”

My heart leapt and sunk all at the same time when I heard those words…a Baby Grand piano? from London? Completely refurbished? It definitely was a beautiful piano, more beautiful than I had imagined in my prayers . . . but a beautiful piano that was most definitely worth thousands.

My mom began to explain to me that the man who had donated the piano to the church had done so in honor of his mother who had died in a car accident the year before.  The man had the piano restored so that it would play beautifully and be a fitting tribute to his mother.  But now he needed to sell it because someone was giving a new full-size grand piano to the church at Christmas.

This man didn’t want to sell the piano to just anybody, so he had been praying for the right buyer.

When he met my dad, he said, “Dr. Broggi, I feel like I know you well.  I listen to you everyday on the radio and I can’t tell you how much you have helped me grow in my Christian life.”

The man was very gracious and agreed upon an affordable price.

A few days later, I stood in shock and amazement in our living room at home and stared at not just any piano, but a beautiful piano.

I couldn’t believe it. I shouldn’t have been surprised that God had answered my prayers, but I was.

I smiled as I looked out the window of the car as the forgotten memories from over 10 years earlier flooded my mind. I had vowed as a young girl to never forget how God had answered my prayer, but so often I had. So often I doubted God’s love and care for the little things in my life.

My worries about having the perfect wedding dress disappeared as I remembered my childhood faith. God cared, so I didn’t need to worry.


An hour later, my mom and I arrived in Charleston. I had picked out several boutiques that I wanted to look at to find a wedding veil.

“I’m not completely sure this place sells veils or wedding gowns,” I told my mom as we approached the first place on my list, “but I know they sell bridesmaids dresses, so they might.”

As the front door of the little shop closed behind us and my eyes adjusted to the natural light in the boutique, I was unable to move because of what I saw displayed in the middle of the shop.

My mom had stopped too and I heard her whisper, “Oh, GraceAnna…”

to be continued…