True Freedom

I usually do not give much notice to commercials (fast forwarding whenever possible), but recently an advertisement for the perfume, Miss Dior, did exactly what the producer intended – it caught my full attention.

In the film, Natalie Portman stars as a runaway bride. The wedding venue and dress exude absolute perfection. But the film is strangely black and white.

Portman is wavering, and as she reaches the end of the aisle her doubt turns into decision. “I am sorry, Dad” she says as the scene bursts in to vibrant hues and Portman tears off her gorgeous hand-crafted gown to reveal a black cocktail dress.

Feminist Janis Joplin’s power anthem, “Piece of My Heart,” cheers Portman on as she runs fast and hard away from her vows, her family, and fiancé.

A second later she reaches a precipice, and a helicopter appears and she leaps on. Her apparent lover (also co-pilot) kisses her on the cheek and they fly away into the sunset. Portman has chosen to be “Miss Dior” instead of a married madam.

As I observed the grandeur scene and message of “freedom” portrayed by Portman, it made me sad.

Not because she chose singleness. No one should marry the wrong person and singleness is an equally esteemed gift from God as marriage. No, I was saddened by her rebellion against the commitment of marriage and the glorification of a life free from marital responsibilities.

It is hard for me to remember that there was indeed a time in my life when the only person I was responsible for was myself (much less jumping on a helicopter with rose petals swirling all around).

These days my life is filled with responsibilities to my husband and children. I wish in that order. But the majority of my time is spent doing things like changing a diaper on a minivan floorboard, scrubbing up calcified play-doh, or saying things like “We don’t play with toilet water” and “No you can’t wear princess slippers to the grocery store.”

I’m a runner and I used to think logging miles was hard. Now hitting the road all alone sounds like a breeze. It’s the getting out the door part that is the real marathon.

Everywhere I go I have little “helpers” with me. Sometimes we go places and they are magnificent. Sometimes we go and they’re not, and I wonder why we even went.

Some people would look at my life and say that I have no freedom. I can’t go running when I want to. I can’t read a book when I want to. Sometimes I can’t even finish a task the way I want to.

Now I understand why my mom used to eat ice cream in the bathroom with the door locked.

Let’s be real, I live in a world completely different than that of “Miss Dior.” But as I watched Portman fly off into the sunset it made me wonder, “Does she feel free?”

It’s all hypothetical of course but then again maybe it isn’t.

Have we really reached a point where freedom is portrayed by such petty play things like a little black dress, a helicopter ride, and a man to kiss but not commit to?

Is freedom merely the absence of responsibility?

If that’s the definition of freedom, I don’t want it.

It has such an achy hollow feel it hurts.

No husband to laugh and grow old with. No knowing glances that span not just the room but the test of time. No one to love you when you’re just plain unlovable. No one who says, “I will never leave no matter what” or “You are the only woman for me in this whole wide world.”

No chubby cheeks to kiss. No baby to rock in the night. No pretend list for Santa or stick figure family portrait. No one to make you laugh over spilled milk, no one to whisper “You are the best mommy ever” even though you know you’re not.

Yes there is a staggering amount of responsibility that comes with being a wife and a mother, but oh how my heart is soaring!

Because true freedom doesn’t come in what I rebelliously cast off but in what I humbly accept.

For love to exist there has to be a taking on of responsibility.

It was the ultimate groom who taught us this when He bled for his bride, the church.

There was the deepest of pain, but the love.

The greatest and most beautiful love story.

It cuts me to the core every time because if “The Son sets you free you are free indeed” (John 8:36).

Because in the end being free isn’t about what you run away from, but Who you run to.

So Janis Joplin you can sing and Natalie Portman you can run, but I’m just not buying the message you are selling.

I want the good stuff, the love that spans the ages, the commitment that lasts a lifetime, and the true freedom that cannot be so easily obtained.

I originally wrote this post on December 28, 2015. While my responsibilities and family have grown since then, this post rings even more true to me now.

a work worth doing

I collapsed into bed last night, truly feeling like I didn’t have one ounce of energy left in me. It had been a great day, but filled with the normal challenges and joys of a day raising young children and running a home. My day had started extra early too with my five-year-old climbing in bed between his Dad and me, whispering about how if he didn’t have socks on his feet, his “toes would be scared.”

I stumbled out of bed and to the dresser, pulling out a pair of my running socks and donning them on his little feet. “You’re fine now, see?” He slipped back to sleep and I lay in the dark, unable to drift back off myself. Besides the extra cup of coffee I needed around 2pm, getting up early ended up being the biggest blessing of my day. I got so much accomplished even before the kids got up. Why don’t I do that more often?

But now, getting up early didn’t feel so glamorous as I felt overtired and exhausted climbing into bed after the extra long day. And in that moment, laying there, I caught myself thinking that it was a bad thing that I was tired. I worked so hard. I really pushed myself too hard. Today was long. Staying on task today was tiring.

Just like that, I felt the Lord nudge my heart and bring the words of Titus 2 to the forefront of my mind, “So train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled.”

Working at home. Working.

The day had been hard work. No doubt. Being self-controlled and exercising patience with my children in some moments had pushed me beyond myself to really rely on the Lord.

Instead of negativity, my heart was filled with thankfulness. God, thank YOU that I have such meaningful work to do. Thank you that I barely had a moment today to be idle or lazy, but that I am healthy and able to work hard at work worth doing. What a privilege and a gift to raise and teach my children! Thank you that I am utterly exhausted because I did what you called me to today.

Besides battling against my own desire to often choose the easiest route, instead of the most faithful route (regardless if it’s hard or easy), the world often sends the blaring message that when it comes to motherhood, I should do my best to avoid anything that is difficult or challenges me to my limits.

But God’s Word reminds me that meaningful WORK is what He has called me to do. And also that His grace is readily sufficient, “Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest.”

And just like that, exhausted and tired, I felt rest too. Being tired, working hard, laying it all on the line, coming to God again and again for His inexhaustible grace, that is where I want to live. That is how I want to lay my head down. I am so thankful!

This morning His mercies are new, and I thank Him for the work He has given me. A work that exhausts and exhilarates me. A work that is not for this life only, but will last forever. A work worth doing.

“I have one desire now — to live a life of reckless abandon for the Lord, putting all my energy and strength into it.” – Elisabeth Elliot

Bible Reading for the Whole Family

As we begin the new year, I wanted to share a few resources our family is using to read through the Bible.

Of course, there is no greater resource in the world than God’s Word! Having a plan is just a tool we use to help keep us on track. Years ago, I wrote a post about reading God’s Word with little ones. It was basically an explanation of my own discovery that as a mother my time in God’s Word will not always be “quiet”. I don’t need quiet to read God’s Word (though of course it’s nice!). I just need God’s Word!

I posted on my instagram that I am heading into the new year asking the Lord to help me put Him continually before me (Psalm 16:8). The main way I am doing this is setting God’s Word before me each and every day.

That being said, I want to quickly break down what plans we are using to read God’s Word.


A couple years ago I started reading through the Bible during the school year (September~May). It’s helpful for me to not start from scratch in January. This also gives me the chance to do something different in the summer. Last year I used Robert Murray M’Cheyne’s Bible reading plan. I kept it in my Bible and used it as a checklist. This year I am using the To The Word Bible reading plan. My favorite aspect of this plan is that it is connected to the Youversion Bible app. On days when I don’t have enough time to sit down and read six chapters, I will play the audio version. I’m also reading with a friend, and we hold eachother accountable by commenting through the app every day!


Grant loves the M’Cheyne plan. He cuts out the linked printout and tapes it on opposite sides of the front pages of His bible. He always starts it sometime in the fall too. He likes getting a jumpstart so he won’t get behind if he misses a day. He never listens to it on audio and no matter how late at night it is, if he hasn’t done his reading, I will find him in his chair reading God’s Word. This is also a great compilation of some excellent reading plans.


Our oldest two children are able to read God’s Word on their own now. This year they are using Tune My Heart’s 5 day narrative Bible reading plan. With this plan, the kids will read through all the major narratives of Scripture plus Psalms and Proverbs in a year. They use this Bible. This one also looks GREAT and is one we may buy next.

Grant printed and taped it in the front of the girls’ Bibles so they can check it off as they go along. We alternate reading with our eight-year-old to help her with challenging words and navigate to the right passage (our nine-year-old reads first thing in the morning on her own). This is not only special time with our eight-year-old, but we are sneaking in a little homeschool time too (her reading has come leaps and bounds already!). There is also a daily devotional guide for this plan which is great for older children.

We put the third page in the back cover pages


I have absolutely loved the Bible curriculum we are using for the kids this year. I do Bible with all the kids together 2-3 times per week. If you are looking for a no-fluff resource that helps children understand the entire Bible this is it! I have even learned so much! We do not memorize the catechism questions, but just by reviewing it consistently, the kids know all the answers. It’s helped them understand God’s promises and the fight of good against evil from the very beginning of time.

Lastly, Grant reads to the kids often from different children’s Bibles before bed. The kids are currently loving The Action Bible as well as Catherine Vos’ The Child’s Story Bible.

I know that many of you already have a Bible reading strategy for 2021, but since I had been asked several times what we were doing, I wanted to compile this for you. May we all say with the Psalmist, “I will delight in your statutes; I will not forget your word” (Ps 119:16).

How God Uses Hard Things

I never even saw the car coming. It was around 7am on a Saturday and I had jumped in my minivan to drive five minutes down the road to pick up Starbucks coffee. 

I never even saw the car coming. It was around 7am on a Saturday and I had jumped in my minivan to drive five minutes down the road to pick up Starbucks coffee.

Grant had a grueling schedule that year. He was juggling seminary classes and two jobs, I wanted to surprise him with hot coffee and breakfast. 

“Mom can I come with you?” my oldest begged before I left the house. 

“No, stay here with Daddy” I whispered. “I promise I will be right back.” 

“Mama!”, my other toddler came out of her room wanting me. I picked her up to snuggle her and immediately realized she had wet the bed. 

I sighed. Again?! I had just put fresh sheets on the night before and now I would have to do it all again. And had I put the waterproof mattress cover back on yesterday? No I hadn’t. It would need a good mattress scrubbing and airing out too. 

“Go snuggle with Daddy, I will be right back” I told her.

My girls ran into the bedroom to snuggle their dad and I slipped out the door. 

I connected my cell phone to the speaker system after I got in and cranked up the heat. A song I had been listening to last time came on, MY GOD, MY FATHER, BLISSFUL NAME. Whate’er Thy sacred will ordains, O give me strength to bear; And let me know my Father reigns, And trust His tender care.”

I sang the words as I approached the red light and sat for a few moments, praying and singing in my heart. It was cold out. It was beautiful out. The light went green and my singing heart didn’t check both ways before I pulled out into the intersection. 

Next thing I knew my world was swirling. All I could see was brown spinning. What was happening? Lord am I dying? After a moment I opened my eyes.

Where was I? Things began to come together as my mind raced into clarity. My van was in the middle of the intersection. Someone was at my door banging on the glass.

“Ma’am! Are you OK?” Someone else was screaming. “She ran the red light! That woman was on her phone and she ran the red light.”

I saw a woman in another vehicle get out of her car. People were yelling at her. I felt a tingling sensation and reached up and touched my hair and felt blood but no pain.

Then I realized what had happened. Someone had run the red light and hit me. I looked behind me to see my car had been tossed. Tears streamed down my face, God thank you I left the kids at home. It hurt so much to imagine my three little ones in the back seat. But they weren’t in the backseat.

Someone was standing at the car trying to ask me something, “Miss, are you okay? I see blood. Miss?!”

In that moment I couldn’t speak or answer. I only had one thought, “God please let me go home and change my little girl’s sheets.” 

Those sheets. Those precious wet sheets. How had I ever scorned them? How had I ever dreaded changing them? I would do anything to be there right now. God please give me more years to change wet sheets!

With the help of a paramedic I managed to get out of my van and call Grant as I got into the ambulance. “I’m OK,” I said as I tried weakly to describe what had happened. “I’m going to the hospital but I’m OK.”

And I was OK. Three staples to the head later (ouch), and a mild concussion, but no permanent physical damage. Just permanent heart change. 

I realized that day in the intersection that I hadn’t been grateful for the mundane tasks of mothering. I was taking the joy of having little ones to care for for granted. 

I wish I could say that day washed away all my pride and that I never dreaded a mundane task again, but I can tell you it was a good start. 

That incredibly hard moment forever changed my perspective of the mundane. 
And that’s how God works so often doesn’t He? 

He uses the hard things to change our perspective. To grow us. To show us our sin and help us realize His blessings. The hard things are what soften us when we are willing to let Him work and accept what He is doing in our lives. 

2020 has been a hard year for so many. But the amazing thing for the Christian is that we know that God uses the hard things to do great things. He uses hard truths to soften our hard hearts. He uses difficulty to smack us on the head and wake us up and help us realize that He hasn’t given up on us, He is changing us.

I don’t have to pretend the hard things aren’t hard, but what I want to do is allow God to change me through them. To soften my heart like never before. To help me see in a way I never have before. To serve in a way I never have before. To love in a way I never have before. And most days, that begins with the mundane.

For isn’t that what Christmas is all about? Our God made low, to lift us up. Emmanuel God with us.

The Lord’s Day: A Delight For Our Children

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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




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


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


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


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


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



The things I am not waiting for

I will never forget that ultrasound. In the second trimester of my pregnancy , the quietness from the ultrasound technician was deafening.


“No, no, no…” I heard myself say audibly as I watched her face fill with sadness, “Please tell me ‘no.'”


Then the words I had heard once before were spoken, “GraceAnna, I’m so sorry. There is no heartbeat.”


The days that followed were difficult and oh so painful. My husband and I drove to the hospital the next morning and I delivered a perfect little girl, we named her Rose. She was tiny in Grant’s hands and we loved her so. We buried her in a cemetery not far from his childhood home in Dallas.


I’ve always gotten so sick in each of my pregnancies. I have four beautiful children  now and have felt the waves of sickness that pregnancy brings with seven little ones. It is really hard. But when I got pregnant with our little boy, Patrick, my perspective was different.


It’s not that it wasn’t hard, it’s just that after holding and burying Rose, I viewed it all differently. I was sick, but I didn’t care like I had before, I just wanted him.


Rose, along with the other two children who went to be with the Lord in my womb, taught me that pregnancy might be the only time I ever got with this boy.


As my perspective shifted with my view of this time, my words changed too. I no longer said, “I just can’t wait for…” anymore. I didn’t feel guaranteed the “next phase” even though I longed to hold him in my arms one day.


It was a season of waiting, for sure, but it was also an ever important season of being the mother to the little boy in my womb right then. Rushing it away, could be rushing away the only time God had given me with Patrick in this life.


I think in mothering little ones, there is often a temptation to hurry things along. I know because I’ve been there. We are ready for that little one to be born. We are ready for them to sleep through the night. We are ready for them to quit teething. We are ready for them to walk and not crawl. We are ready for them to distinguish between edible and inedible objects. We are ready for them to transition out of diapers. We are ready for nap time or bedtime or the next stage, whatever is. We are just so ready.


Maybe we wonder why God is making us wait. It is interesting though, to think about all of these stages that God created. Nine months in the womb, the newborn stage, teething, sitting up at six months, learning to walk around twelve months. He created an order of events.  Maybe He knew we would want to rush things. That we would want to hurry when this is what He wants us to focus on, the right now.


Because so often what we think is just “waiting,” is exactly where we need to be.


When I was pregnant with each of my children, I wasn’t waiting to mother him or her, I was mothering them in my womb. Protecting them, praying for them, and nourishing them, right then.


And now that their voices fill our home, I’m not waiting to one day be useful with my life , I am being useful right now. I’m not waiting have a ministry, I have a ministry right now ~ the most important ministry I will ever have. I’m not waiting to enjoy my life when things are more orderly, more quiet, less stressful, I am enjoying it right now.


I can choose to view every stage of my life as something to get through, but if I am always viewing my moments as a waiting game, I will soon discover that I will be waiting my whole life. For the seasons of life always involve waiting. It is how God designed it and He is calling me above all not to wait for the next season, but to wait for HIM. Wait for His presence, wait for His deliverance, and yes, even pray for some seasons to pass in His timing, but most of all that I would find Him in my waiting.


For ultimately, we are waiting for eternity where God will one day make all things right.


Instead of just waiting for the next thing, I want to be investing right now. Lord, help me invest right here in this moment where you have so clearly put me! How does one invest over  a lifetime? It’s not by hurrying each day by until nap time, the weekend, or waiting for the next stage of life or our children’s lives.


It’s not by encouraging one another by saying, “Just wait, when this phase passes, it will be so much easier.” And who knows, maybe it will be way easier, and maybe we will enjoy it more, but it won’t be any less important. It’s not guaranteed either.


I want to stop believing the lie that tomorrow is more important than today or that something is better because it’s easier. I want to invest right now. How can I dig in to this really hard moment and give God glory? In this moment of chaos and hard, God hasn’t forgotten or left me, this is the moment He knows I need.


I want to embrace all the hours with my children and realize how important they really are. Sure, I’m going to get tired and worn out, but what can I teach them about trusting God in the midst of that? What can I share with them about my relationship with God and how I am growing? How can I pour myself completely into right now and not just wish for it to be over?


Maybe I can grab my kids and read to them on the couch when I have a million other things to do. Maybe I can teach them to roller blade or build a lego tower (or maybe he will teach me). Maybe I can fold the laundry with my girls and really listen to their questions. Maybe, just maybe, there’s a world right here in front of me that doesn’t need to be hurried through, but just needs me.


Because the next phase will come. When Christmas is over, believe me, I am ready to get that tree out. It’s time. The season has passed and I’m not usually sad about it.


And I want to embrace all the next phases with my children without regret. I know too well I fail, I will make mistakes, but I want to know that I didn’t spend the time hurrying it by. But that I invested in the midst of it. That I learned everything I could about how to teach my children to obey, to love the Lord, to grow. And that during these years, I grew right alongside with them.


Right now, I am teaching my children the hymn Take My Life And Let It Be. The first verse says this,


Take my life and let is be consecrated Lord to Thee.

Take my moments and my days;

Let them flow in ceaseless praise, let them flow in ceaseless praise.


So, let’s encourage each other to fully be right here, which is where we need to be today. Let’s not hurry by what He has ordained, but wait for His presence in it. Let’s trust Him to grow something beautiful today, that one day we will enjoy because we knew His faithfulness in all the moments leading up to it.


“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” – Galations 6:9






Freeing myself from picture perfect motherhood

I was going through some notes on my phone today and found what I think was the title of something I wanted to write about but never did. The note was created on March 26, 2017 and was titled, “Freeing Myself from Picture Perfect Motherhood.” 

I clicked on the note, only to find it completely empty, and it made me smile. 

Undoubtedly, in that moment when I was trying to express something, I had been interrupted by someone. Thus proving what I am sure I was trying to explain in my thesis to be true. 

Motherhood isn’t picture perfect, no matter how beautiful it may be framed. 

It can be easy, no matter how hard we try not to, to get this idea in our heads that motherhood should somehow be picture perfect. I think that is partly because God has put in our hearts the desire for a perfect world. One that is unstained by our sin, our children’s sin, and the suffering that comes from a world broken by it. 

Genesis 3 is clear that a curse has come upon mankind ~ and that curse affects both the man and the woman’s spheres of life. 

Man will have thorns in his work and the woman will experience pain in childbirth. This stigma from the beginning of time, overflows today into every area of our lives, doesn’t it? 

And even as women who put our hope in God and know these things to be true from Scripture, find it so easy to forget, don’t we? 

For around us and through social media, we see a world of picture perfect motherhood, and we wonder why our own little domain isn’t quite like that.

We wake up in the morning expecting our world to look something like that, and when it isn’t, we may find ourselves spiraling into a dark place. Of course, we probably wouldn’t put it into those terms exactly, but deep down I know so many days that’s been true for me. I’ve woken up and faced the day believing my children will naturally want to obey, that the kitchen floor won’t suffer a ridiculous spill of chocolate milk, or that my energy or sanity will be like a gurgling and endless fresh water spring, constantly meeting my own needs and the little people around me. 

I don’t know what I was planning to write on March 26, 2017, but I know what I want to say today, on October 16, 2019. Motherhood isn’t picture perfect for me, and I want to be set free from any expectations from myself or others that it will be or that it could be.  

But while all my moments aren’t frame worthy by some standards, they are one of the most important things in this life to me. If I could look back on the past few months and point to something the Lord has been teaching me, it would be the understanding that most of my days will not go as I plan them. In Galatians 5, Paul says that there is a battle going on between the flesh and the spirit. That if we know the Lord, if we belong to Him, there will often be a struggle in our hearts between living by the flesh or living by the spirit. He calls it, “the works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the spirit.” Every day, there will be temptations and there are battles to be fought in the home ~ both in my heart and in the lives of my children. If they know the Lord, I can begin to explain this to them. That the Holy Spirit is a helper in their hearts to help them obey, but that their flesh and sinful desires will often not want help. I love though, that the works of the spirit are described not as works at all, but as fruit. Good and delightful things growing right there in the midst of the battle, in the midst of my heart and the hearts of my children as we seek to obey Him. 

My best days of motherhood aren’t the ones where I think or expect them to be perfect,  but the days when I am set free from that idea all together. The days when I know there will be battles and messes happening, both in my heart and in the hearts of my children, but that I don’t have to face them alone. That through the power of the Holy Spirit at work through me and God’s Word, there is hope, beauty, joy and fruit growing. 

That my motherhood story is beautiful, it is of incredible value, it is a time I cannot ever get back, and it is not picture perfect because it is so much more than could ever be captured in a staged snapshot. Battles aren’t beautiful, but when the enemy loses and victory is won, they are places of triumph and remembrance. Life is altered and made there. Lives are forever changed there. Little hearts are formed there. 

As a mother, I don’t ever want to believe that one bad moment has  ruined our day, no, it’s shown us where we need to look today. It’s shows us that a victory is in the making and even when a battle is loss, forgiveness is calling. 

Today may be hard, really hard, we may have breakdowns at the laundry pile, squabbling at the kitchen table, and I may even find myself regrouping behind a locked bathroom door. But those days, those days that are hard and I look up, those are my best days. For on those days, I am set free from picture perfect motherhood and I find the story of motherhood God is writing for me. It cannot be captured with a lens, for while that is how man sees, it’s not how God sees. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart, and in that, I am gloriously set free. 

treasuring motherhood when I fail

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I don’t know what it is, maybe it’s that cool of the morning that comes with the beginning of fall,  maybe it’s my middle turning five years old, or maybe it’s the reality of knowing how quickly this life passes, that has me contemplating once again my mothering.

It’s so easy, isn’t it, to try to “judge” ourselves. To ask, “How am I doing?” “Am I treasuring all the moments?” “Am I a good mom?”

I think these questions are good and definitely have a place, but I have also recognized the danger of evaluating myself too much. Because when I do, I feel dreadfully sad.

Surely there were moments I missed, surely there were times I failed, and even when I did it all just right, it’s still going by oh so fast.

I want to figure this out. How do I treasure yesterday, enjoy today, and smile at tomorrow?

I don’t know if I ever will, but I do know this ~ The best way for me to do a better job at anything is not to look too long at myself. Because I will either think too highly of myself or I will plummet by the sheer reality of my own inadequacies.

The apostle Paul, a man of great godliness and boldness evaluated himself like this in 1 Corinthians 4:3-4~

But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. In fact, I do not even judge myself. For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

In our society today, we are often told:

Believe in yourself.

It doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks, just what you think of yourself.

Encouragement is important and I do think our inner thoughts are so vital. But Paul just says something so radically different here. And it has helped me immensely as a mom.

Paul essentialy says, that at the end of the day,

It doesn’t matter what you think of me. And

It doesn’t matter what I think of myself.

Paul knows that his own opinion of himself can be flawed. He could be thinking he’s doing it all right, but his heart is in the wrong place. Or he could be thinking that he’s failing, but God sees something different (1 Sam 16:7).

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetPaul doesn’t look for his stamp of approval from another person or even from himself. He doesn’t value his own opinion. The only opinion of himself that truly matters is God’s.

This is such a transformational truth and one that I want to grab onto with all my heart.

There are so many standards set for us as women and as mothers. We can barely meet our own high standards, much less someone else’s. I’m not saying don’t set them, do! But the moment I think that meeting a standard makes me a good mom, I’ve made motherhood all about me. I’ve declared that my identity is wrapped up in my achievements. And I’ve created a giant obstacle that has my name written all over it.

For in that moment I try to be some perfect mom, I miss out.

I’m not thinking about my kids. I’m not enjoying just knowing them. I’m worried about that thing I didn’t do.

Instead of staying up late to snuggle for a few minutes, I’m worried about that book that says not to do that.

Instead of sending that little cookie in her lunchbox, I’m wondering if another mom will judge me if I do.

Instead of being confident about what I’ve decided to do, I’m second guessing my every move.

Instead of looking up, I’m desperately looking within, and missing what’s right in front of me.

Instead of soaking up all the goodness of everyday moments, I’m letting myself get in the way.

I’m missing the way the breeze is blowing her hair just that way. I’m not thanking God for grubby fingers to scrub. I’m not laying on the floor reading two more chapters of Nancy Drew. I’m not skipping down the sidewalk. I’m not kissing my husband when he walks in the door and treasuring how he spins my little ones in the air in his daddy way. I’m not thanking God that he’s even there to do it.

Processed with VSCO with c1 presetIf I spend my days putting checks in my own boxes, I will miss just knowing my children. I will miss right now.

And if I strive in motherhood for that moment when I feel like I’m a “good” mom, I  will never reach it.

I must believe this. I am not in the courtroom. My mothering is not on trial. Yes, I want to recognize failings, not brush over them, but learn.

But I want to remember, as a mom who has been redeemed by Christ, Jesus went on trial for me. He is my substitute for my ugly failings and He loves me unconditionally.

My identity isn’t wrapped up in being the best mom, whatever that is. It’s not wrapped up in how I lived yesterday or in what I think of myself today.

My identity isn’t even found in motherhood at all. It was declared in a heavenly courtroom by a God who says, “You are my beloved child, in whom I am well pleased.”

I want to value how God has uniquely gifted me and my friends as mothers, and then I want to forget myself, and run to Him. The One who gave me yesterday, holds my tomorrow, and wants me to find joy today.



. Tim Keller’s The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness was extremely helpful to me in unpacking 1 Corinthians 4 

Castleberry Hearts are Texas Bound!

IMG_0126.JPGWhat can I say except we are so thankful for this journey of seminary the Lord brought us on! Five years ago we put our home in S.C. on the market, sold half of our belongings, and moved to The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary for Grant to embark on his M.Div.

AudreyKate was just barely a toddler, and I was seven months pregnant with Evangeline. What we didn’t know is that the MDiv would lead to a PhD and that our three years at Southern would expand to five. We have seen God’s faithfulness over and over again these past five years. We have made lifelong friendships we will treasure forever and we feel indebted to the encouragement, support, and spiritual education that Southern has imparted to us. We are just one of many families who has had the privilege of coming in and going out the doors of this seminary into ministry. We are grateful beyond words for those of you who have prayed for us and encouraged us in this journey.

Now that Grant is finished with his residential coursework for his PhD (he still has more studying left) it is with great excitement that we share that he will be joining the pastoral staff at Providence Church in Frisco, Texas! Grant gives the details of our move in his resignation letter to CBMW.

I wanted to share the news here with you – to those who read my blog and have encouraged me through your comments and messages. I plan to keep on sharing what the Lord is teaching me and I am grateful for each one of you.

From my heart,


homeschooling little ones from the kitchen table

This blog is a place where I mainly love to just write. 

But as I am homeschooling this year, I thought it also might be a great place to share some of what we are doing from time to time.

I’ve received some emails recently asking me what curriculum I chose for the girls this year, if I am involved in any homeschool groups, and what I am doing with little Charles while I teach my girls.



While my children are young, I want to keep things as simple as possible. The day will come too soon when they will have lots of formal instruction every day. But I want to keep kindergarten at home as fun as it can be. My focus has been on two main things: getting a good start in math and teaching AudreyKate (who is in kindergarten) to read.

I am using Saxon Math this year. I like it for a couple reasons. It is mainly what my mom used with us growing up so I’m familiar with it and it is very straightforward. I also chose it because the daily calendar is incorporated in to each lesson when you use Saxon’s Meeting Book.

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We live in a 1200 sq foot house, and I homeschool from our kitchen table (or the backyard), so I don’t have a lot of room for posters or a morning meeting corner. Everything I use, I need to be able to put away when school is over. The meeting book covers all the basics I would teach if I were teaching in a classroom (date, days of the week, counting, weather, etc), without all the cuteness. But I do have this cute old fashioned slider calendar I like to use with the girls to keep track of the date.

The other main curriculum I am using this year is Logic of English. I did a lot of research before I ordered this series (I watched almost all these videos!) because I wanted to make sure it would really work for us. At the end of the day, I went with it because I love the phonogram approach. I think a lot of this is due to the fact that I struggled to learn to read as a child. Among other things, when my mom began teaching me phonograms, I think that really helped things click for this literal learner.  I went from not being able to read at all, to reading Little House in the Big Woods!

This curriculum has been a lot of fun for us and I really like the instruction for teaching cursive writing. I am teaching AudreyKate cursive first because a). I really want her to be able write in cursive for the rest of her life, and b). because cursive requires less fine motor control than print.

IMG_2573.JPGThis year, I am also teaching a little phonogram/handwriting class at my home with one of AudreyKate’s friends. I pack a lot into our two hours of class each week, but it is such a fun time and the girls do a lot of games and multi-sensory activities as they focus on their phonograms and cursive writing.

In terms of Evangeline, I am using a lot of preschool books I have had for a while and used off and on with the girls (I will link some at the bottom). My amazing mother-in-law also does preschool once a week with Evangeline over FaceTime. They work on her letters and read lots of books. I just love that Lulu makes time to do this with Evie and it helps me immensely as I always use this time to work with AudreyKate.

Grant does Bible with the kids every evening. I know I could do this first thing in the morning, but between unloading the dishwasher and getting everyone breakfast, I usually want to get started on AK’s seat work first thing. But I love that no matter how late or tired Grant is, he always reads to them and explains the Bible lesson so well. Right now he is going through The New Children’s Bible by Anne DeVries. 


IMG_2282.JPGOne of the recurring questions I’ve been asked is if we are doing Classical Conversations this year. I ALMOST did, but in the end I decided not to for a couple reasons.

{I will say that everyone I know who does CC loves it (you know who you are ~ Amy Grimme and Mel Reedus to name a couple!) and the program seems amazing!}

However for this school year, I wanted to have the complete flexibility homeschooling provides. The nature of Grant’s schedule and PhD work means that sometimes we travel during the school year ~ so I didn’t want a Friday morning commitment each week (our CC is on Fridays). And I only do school 4 days a week right now ~ so Friday is our off day that I use to play catch-up, do housework, or do something fun with the kids.

IMG_4290.JPGAudreyKate is taking an art class this year at a local art studio run by two artists. This is one morning each week. I love this because it gives AK time to learn and do something she absolutely loves (with an incredibly talented artist) and it gives me focused time with the younger two.

We also have the girls in ballet this fall. They both really look forward to it each week, especially Evangeline!

And lastly, we have our Bible program at our church every Wednesday night, so all those things fill  up their little preschool/kindergarten week very quickly!


IMG_4291.JPGOkay, lastly, I received a couple questions asking what I do with Charles when I’m trying to do school with the girls.

I know I could probably do school in the afternoons while he is napping, but I really am one of those people that likes to get it done in the morning. The girls still have a rest time every afternoon and I use that time for a lot of different things and I typically don’t like to cut into that.

Little brother often plays in his room (we have a baby gate so he stays put with all baby safe things). Many mornings Evangeline will play with him and I can hear everything going on from right outside his door.

Charles also has his “reading time” most mornings in his crib. Some of his favorite books are Cowboy Small ( we ABSOLUTELY adore this book), The Little Train (another favorite by Lois Lenski), Dada (this one is just fun), Mighty Dads (a new favorite for us), and The Magic Bunny (my mom gave this to us when Charles was born and it is the sweetest). Those are just a few of his favorites right now but maybe I will share some more soon.

And Charles will often just join us while we are working on school. I bring some of his toys and he is typically content to mosey around with a train in hand, watching us work.


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I think one of the biggest things that has helped me this year is keeping things SIMPLE curriculum wise so that I have plenty of margin to read to my girls and make sure they have time to create and play (along with the things I want to do for my own  spiritual growth). I want to have lots of time for discovery in the backyard, trips to the library, and snuggling on the couch. And also because everyone is so little, I need to be able to get all of our “seat work” done in a doable amount of time. If preschool and kindergarten are overwhelming, than I figure I am probably trying to do too much.

I’ve gotten a lot of great book ideas from The Read Aloud Revival podcast as well as from literature lists from my student teaching days (I have more resources than I know what to do with). I also just ordered this book and am excited to get started on it.

There are so many great resources available for homeschooling, this is just how we are going about it this year. When AudreyKate started reading Dick & Jane to me a few weeks ago (on her own initiative!), I felt really encouraged that at least some of what we are doing is working.

I am going to link some of the other resources I use below and I would LOVE to hear any suggestion you have and please let me know if you’d like to see more posts like this now and again.

from my heart to yours,




Usborne Wipe-Clean 1,2,3

Usborne Wipe-Clean First Letters

Preschool practice


What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know (we read this on the couch right after lunch, before rest time)

Cursive Practice

Doodling Dragons (part of our Logic of English curriculum. I also use this for my phonogram class)

Student Whiteboard (I use this for EVERYTHING!)

Pointers (these are great for guided reading) I also use these lighted pointers but they have button batteries so I keep them out of reach except when I am using them with the girls.