This is my home, this is my school

As many of you know, my brothers and I were homeschooled our entire growing up years. There’s so much I love about schooling at home ~ not just the memories I have of discovery and learning through the world as our schoolroom, but the ways in which I feel like it cultivated a love of learning in my own heart.

My husband, Grant was in public education his whole life and yet the home was still the center of education. His mom (and dad) were involved in his education every step of the way and were wholly invested in not only helping him learn, but raising him to be a young man of character.

My love for learning, led me to study Early Childhood Education at Clemson. And there is much I love about teaching my own children as we embark on our own education journey.

I have received some emails asking me what we are doing this year for education with our children. I thought it would be easy to compile some of those questions and answer them from here.

But before I do that, I wanted to share the sweetest book my mom gave me when I was home in S.C. last week. I have a special place in my heart for children’s books. I think this is in part to my own journey as a student, and then a teacher. It takes a unique talent to create a story which engages children while also speaking to the hearts of adults.

Children are future adults! So if a children’s book doesn’t stir my heart as I read it to my kids, it never makes it on my favorites list.

But in my opinion, this book does everything a good children’s book should!

For those of you who belong to the early pioneering days of homeschooling, my guess is you will really identify with this book. And of course, for all the current homeschooling mothers, if you’re anything like me, you will for sure wonder if someone took sketches of your own life and plastered them on the pages.

But I think all those who strive to make the home the center of education in the life of their children will love it as well.

The pages of this gem (written by a now grown-up homeschooler, Jonathan Bean), rang true to my memories of homeschooling. Whether it was my dad drilling multiplication facts into my head or my mom somehow managing to run our home and educate us at the same time.

And it also speaks to me now ~ as this year I attempt teaching my little ones at home at our kitchen table and backyard.

Here are some of my favorite pages of the book. I could have shared every one, but I promise I didn’t! I snapped these pics on a gloomy day, so they are a little dark, but I have a feeling you may not be able to resist getting your own copy.

This Is My Home, This Is My School


I hope this made you smile this morning, as you get started on your day with little ones! And I look forward to sharing what we are doing in homeschooling this year in my next post!

the moments we make time for

IMG_1323.JPGThis summer has been somewhat of a whirlwind for our little family. Ever since Grant has been in graduate school, it seems we do a very good job of packing our summers as full as we can with family visits, work conferences, and  borderline insane travel itineraries for three children five and under.

The past few days we have been winding down and experiencing some normalcy at home. I have been tackling organization projects and trying to catch up on laundry and ironing and unpacking the mound of clothes in the girls’ room.

Tonight as Grant finished up a little work, I put the girls to bed and I was feeling the exhaustion from how hard I had been pushing all day. “Can you read us a Bible story?” the girls chimed in together when I was ready to turn out the light.

Now THAT’s a difficult one to say “no” to. Fairy tales, no problem. Stories of when I was little, also easier. But a BIBLE STORY, well that’s problematic.

“Girls, Mommy is SO very tired and it is WAY past your bedtime. Let’s do a story in the morning.”

“Mommy???” AudreyKate sweetly and cleverly countered, “How about we tell YOU a Bible story?”

I teetered on the edge for a moment, in my head saying “no,” but instead out came something like a “Yes.”

“Well,” AudreyKate began, “Once upon a time there was a man named Noah. And the people were very bad and didn’t love God. So God told him to build a boat and he did.”

Her face lit up as she began to recall the details of Noah’s construction of the ark, the flood, and the forty days and forty nights they were all on the boat.

“First, he sent out a black bird and it just kept flying and flying. Then,” her hand gesturing the bird’s flight, “He sent out a dove and it kept flying. Then he sent out another dove and it brought back a tiny piece of leaf, and then he sent out one more dove and it never came back and Noah knew there was dry land.”

As I listened, I couldn’t believe with what accuracy she relayed Noah sending out the fowl.

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I even went and fact-checked it in Genesis 8. Surely she had added an extra bird in there.

I kissed her face, which was now satisfactorily delighted by her apt audience (of two). I felt no less tired, but my spirit was lifted somehow.

As I closed the door I thought to myself, “I’m SO glad I made time for that.”

I never feel like there are enough hours in the day to complete the tasks I want to accomplish. And I don’t even consider myself a very busy person. I’m not solving the world’s problems. But I am thankful when God gives me the grace to make time.

Taking a few moments to stop and pray for a friend. Jotting down a Bible verse to meditate on throughout the day. Writing a quick thank-you note or a text to let someone know I’m thinking of them. Packing Grant a lunch or sitting down and listening to my little girl tell me a Bible story.

Sometimes I think that I must be refreshed and my schedule must be clear to have time, but if I wait for that, I will most likely never have time.

I don’t always know what the right things are to make time for with my kids (I do believe it is good for them to hear no). But I do know this, I will probably never be less busy or my schedule more laid-back (if I am doing what God has called me to). I will just be busy with different things. Less diapering, more of something else.

Of course, in my busy moments of taking care of a home and little ones, I often think about how busy Jesus was in his earthly ministry.

The cares of the world. So many needs around him. No time. And I don’t say these things lightly.

He was on his way to die (on the road to Jericho), when blind Bartimaeus cried out to him, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Many told Bartimaeus to be silent.

But then those next words, Jesus stopped.

So many people. A cross to bear. A world to die for.

He must have been under intense stress. I can’t even imagine it. He was going to suffer and die by the hands of evil men.

And yet He stopped.

This wasn’t the only time He did this. It is one of the hallmarks of Jesus’ ministry – making time for individuals.

So busy and yet all these moments. He didn’t heal everyone. But He made time for so many.

And because Jesus stopped that day, Bartimaeus regained his sight. There was such a big thing to do, and yet the little thing mattered. And it was no little thing to Bartimaeus.

But I so often think that just the big things matter. All I see are my goals or the “next thing” that I just need to do.

But the little things on the way to the big things matter too. And sometimes those little things are life-changing and soul uplifting!

And they can make the world of difference in the life of a child.

IMG_0982.JPG“Remember when you used to wrap me in towel and swing me in the air?”

“I love it when you sing the toothbrush song.”

“Remember when I used to fall asleep laying on your chest?”

“Mommy, this is the best day ever.”

The big things matter. The work matters. But so do the little things along the way.

Because He stopped.

And everything is changed.



The Dock

I love the memories I have of growing up in the Lowcountry. There are so many special things about this area. I wrote a piece for Eat Sleep Play Beaufort on one of the reasons why I enjoyed growing up here.

My friend, Mrs. Gaye Spann, recently put her love for the Lowcountry best, “There’s just so much sky and nature here. I just can’t get enough of the sky.”

Here’s the link!

His Kids {a story of hope}

I found our snapshot camera last night and I realized that I never uploaded the pictures from Grant’s Ukraine trip (from November) to our computer! I finally did that today! Of all the many pictures that Grant took (I mean all 10 pictures that Grant took 🙂 ), I especially loved the ones he took with some of the boys from our church’s orphanage, His Kids.

I recently had the opportunity to write an article about the orphanage for a local magazine. It was so neat learning more about His Kids and the impact this ministry has had in the lives of these children. I’m also going to be writing a more extensive article for our church’s newsletter at the end of the month, so you can also be on the lookout for that.

I thought I would share the article here for those who can’t pick up a hard copy. Also, if you are looking for a ministry to prayerfully or financially support, consider investing in this one!

Here is the article, and Grant’s pictures!

His Kids

When Vince Smith first visited the country of Ukraine over a decade ago, the purpose of his trip had nothing to do with orphans. He was on a mission trip with Community Bible Church of Beaufort, who partnered with a church in the Ukraine to help with the training of local pastors. But as Vince walked the city streets and villages of Ukraine, he was overcome with shock and sadness at the vast amount of orphaned children.
Ukraine has over 100,000 orphans, and only 10% of these orphans are orphaned due to the death of a parent; the rest are social orphans – due to alcoholism, abandonment, or imprisonment of parents. Many of these have experienced abuse and violence from parents who were drug addicts or alcoholics. Every year at least 2,000 mothers abandon their babies in maternity hospitals.  Between 6,000 and 7,000 children are abandoned at an older age or removed from homes due to crime or neglect. Orphans typically grow up in large state-run homes, which may house over 200 children. Children usually graduate from these institutions between 15 and 16 years old and are turned out, unprepared for life outside the home. About 10% of them will commit suicide after leaving the orphanage before their 18th birthday. That 60% of the girls will end up in prostitution in Europe and 70% of boys will enter a life of crime is a sobering statistic.  Many children run away from these homes, preferring to live on the street. They are referred to as, “street kids.” Many die young from violence or end up in prison.
Vince Smith shared, “When I left Ukraine, I couldn’t help but leave feeling grieved and distressed about these orphans. I knew had to do something. I just kept thinking about how Jesus said, ‘to whom much is given, much is required.’  And when you read the Bible, you find that orphan ministry is at the center of God’s heart. In James 1:27, the Scripture says that ministering to orphans is ‘pure’ and ‘undefiled.’ And the reason ministering to orphans is pure, is because they can’t give back.”
It was this experience years ago that planted the seeds for His Kids, a Christian orphanage and adoption ministry that the Smith family started through the support and partnership of Community Bible Church and the Evangelical Baptist Church of Vinnitsa, Ukraine.
The ultimate goal of His Kids is to place children in a nurturing and loving adoptive home where they can understand the love that Jesus Christ has for them. “His Kids is all about double adoption,”Vince explained. The ministry’s slogan is, “Adopted by Him, Adopted by You.”
His Kids goes beyond meeting the physical and medical needs of orphans. His Kids seeks to make every child feel like they belong. When the Vinnitsa Christian Orphanage was founded in 2004 as a part of the His Kids ministry, the orphan children dipped their hands in colored paint and put their handprints on the orphanage wall. “We wanted these kids to know that this home was theirs and that each one of them is unique and that their life has value,” Vince explained.
As the orphanage has grown over the years (housing 46 children), so has the rate of adoptions. Both American and Ukrainian families have adopted children who have been placed in the Christian orphanage founded by His Kids.
“Just as each child is different, each adoption looks differently. We try to match up children with the right families (whether locally or globally) and we mentor those families every step of the way,” Vince said. His Kids not only ministers to Ukrainian children, but Beaufort children as well. His Kids partners with the Department of Social Services and helps them place children in loving foster homes.
But adoption and foster care aren’t the only ways that American families can get involved with the ministry of His Kids. Families can sponsor a Ukrainian child for just $30 a month ($1/per day). Many Ukrainian families would like to adopt, but they simply cannot afford to feed another child. Vince explained, “If the financial burden is lifted, many families are able to adopt because that is the only thing holding them back.”
“Sponsoring a child is transformational for so many families,” Vince continued, “It’s been transformational for our family. My kids have been going with me to the Ukraine since we started the ministry and it has affected all of us. Our entire family has invested our lives in His Kids.”
Vince and his wife, Cindy, have three children: Caleb (20), Braden (17), and Ale’ Grace (14).  Ale’ Grace described the effect of the orphan ministry in her life, “It’s completely changed my perspective on orphans in general. It’s made me realize how much I have and now I want to do something for these kids.” Because of the impact of His Kids, Caleb, who is a student at the University of South Carolina, wants to attend law school after college and study international law so that one day he can help with the legal side of adoptions.
A change in perspective has been a recurring theme for many families who have gotten involved with the ministry of His Kids. Vince put it like this, “When families embrace orphans in any way, it takes the focus off of ourselves and shifts it to others. I’ve seen it bring families together as they write letters to orphans and post his or her picture on their refrigerator and pray for that child as a family. The impact that it makes is far-reaching.”
His Kids has not only brought families closer, it’s brought members of the community together as well. Vince shared the story of a young boy named Edik who came into contact with the ministry of His Kids. Edik had an infection in his leg that the medical personnel who were attending him could not identify. They were going to amputate his leg. When Vince heard about Edik’s predicament, he had them send Edik’s medical files to Beaufort. Local doctors examined Edik’s files, identified the infection in his leg, and sent Edik the antibiotic he needed to be healed. Edik’s leg was saved.
Edik’s story is just one of many stories of children whose lives have been forever touched through the ministry of His Kids. On a recent visit to the Vinnitsa Christian Orphanage, Vince asked the children what they wanted to be when they grew up. Some children said they wanted to be doctors, others said teachers, dads & moms, missionaries, or pastors. But one child said, “I want to do what you do. I want to help kids like us.”
His Kids has helped foster hope in the lives of orphans who didn’t seem to have any.
The Smith family, along with many other families (both American and Ukrainian), have made a difference in the lives of children who can’t give anything back. Vince couldn’t have said it any better, “When you see one life impacted and changed, it’s worth everything.”
{Vince Smith is the Pastor of Missions at Community Bible Church. To learn more about the ministry of His Kids and how you can get involved, visit All Ukraine orphan statistics obtained from World Orphan Project Inc.}

Happy Birthday DAD!

Today is my dad’s birthday! I am so thankful for my dad!

I’ve been thinking about the many things I have learned from my dad. As I started jotting them down, I realized that every single one that I immediately thought of is a Biblical principle.

Of course, this isn’t everything that my dad taught me, but these are the things that popped into my head.

  • Be in God’s Word daily – “Sin will keep you from God’s Word, or God’s Word will keep you from sin.” {Psalm 119:97}

  • Memorize Scripture {Psalm 1; 119}.
  • Work hard, knowing that you are accountable to God {Col. 3:23-24}.
  • Don’t be ashamed of Jesus Christ {Romans 1:16; Psalm 119:46}.
  • Never gossip or slander {James 3:8-10; Lev. 19:16; Prov. 16:28}.
  • Always honor your dad and mom {Eph. 6:2; Exodus 20:12}.
  • Don’t make fun of people {Mark 12:31}.
  • Ask for forgiveness. No matter how immediate or postponed {Col. 3:13}.
  • It’s better to be a fool in the things of the world and be wise in the things of God {Rom. 16:19}.

  • Pray about everything – the big things and the small things {1 Thess. 5:17}.
  • Never grow cold in your passion for Christ {Rev. 3:16}.
  • Believe God for big things {Matthew 8:8}.
  • Be quick to turn off the television or walk out of a movie if it dishonors Christ {Psalm 101:3, 119:60}.
  • Share your faith. All the time {Acts 4:20}.
  • Be wise with the money God has entrusted to you {Matthew 25:14-30}.
  • Don’t compromise your conscience, “It’s a slippery slope…” {1 Corinthians 10:23}.
  • Pray on the way to church {James 5:16}.
  • Know your spiritual gifts and use them {Matthew 25:14-30, 1 Peter 4:10}.
  • Tithe. “God always gives back…” {Malachi 3:10}.
  • Ask the Holy Spirit to empower you {Galatians 5:16}.
  • Know that no matter what happens, God is in control {Psalm 103:19}.
Thank you dad for all the things you have taught me, not just by teaching, but by example! Happy Birthday!
your only daughter

Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith. ~ Hebrews 13:7

A Wake Up

“GraceAnna, wake up!” Grant’s words seemed faint and far off. I opened my eyes for a moment to see him standing over me trying to wake me up. It was early. And in my mind, too early to be getting up.

AudreyKate was still asleep, which meant I should still be asleep.

A few minutes later I heard his voice again. “GraceAnna, I just put on a pot of coffee, get up!

This time I sat up in bed and watched Grant walk out of the bedroom. I quickly got dressed and came downstairs for a cup of coffee.

“I thought we could spend some time together in the Word on the beach before the day gets going.” Grant explained.

We had discussed this plan the night before. The plan had actually included getting up to watch the sunrise. The sun had already been up for an hour by the time Grant woke me up. We had both missed that.

I always want to get up early to spend time with my husband, but the getting up part is always difficult for me. Especially on mornings when AudreyKate has had a couple middle-of-the-night feedings.

I heard AudreyKate wake up while we sipped our coffee. We put her in the covered stroller, grabbed our Bibles and headed out to the beach.

It was mainly empty, except for a few early morning runners who were out. Like always, it was beautiful. The hues on the beach always seem to be more vibrant in the morning. We plopped down in the foldable chairs we brought with us and started reading.

My time in God’s Word was so refreshing. And I realized as I sat out there that I needed it so much more than I needed sleep.

I looked over at Grant. He was engrossed in a book called, “Heroes” by Iain Murray that I gave him for Father’s Day.

“Hey,” I said. “Thanks for waking me up.”

“But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” – Heb. 3:13


His Uniform

It’s dark outside, but I can see Grant’s shadow in our bedroom as he buttons his Marine Corps camouflage uniform. It’s 3am. He kisses me good-bye and I watch him walk out the door. Before I drift back to sleep, I think about how much I don’t like his uniform.


Gross! I say to myself as I pull Grant’s camouflage out of the dirty hamper and transfer it as quickly as possible to the washer. I think about the fact that he has probably run more miles wearing this uniform in two days than I’ll probably run all week.


The dryer beeps. I haven’t seen Grant in three days. I pull one of his camouflage uniforms out of the dryer and hold it close. I feel the cool metal of his Lt bars on my cheek and remember the time when I watched him walk away from me in this uniform. We had only been married a few months when he left on a deployment. I will never forget the moment when we had to say good-bye. I waved through my blur of tears until I couldn’t see him any longer. I think about how happy I am that tonight he is coming home.


I hear the car door slam. I look out the kitchen window and see Grant’s huge smile under his camouflage cover as he walks up to the back door. I love camouflage. 


I search high and low for Grant’s bald eagle and globe pin that goes on his dress blues. I cannot believe I lost it. I finally check at the cleaners and I find it in the parking lot. It’s smashed and cracked and now I’ll have to get a new one fast. I let out a frustrated sigh.


It won’t be long before my husband won’t be wearing his uniform anymore. I won’t have to watch him walk out the door in the middle of the night. I won’t be washing his forest green and desert storm camis anymore. I won’t have to say good-bye through tears and watch him leave for months at a time.
But that uniform that I have come to often disdain, I will miss.

I’ll miss it because my heart won’t be able to skip a beat when I see a mess of camouflage walk in the back door.

And when the Colors play,  I won’t get to see him standing tall in his dress blues.

But one thing for sure, uniform or not, he will always be standing tall.

Man of Honor

I can still remember that morning pretty clearly.

I was riding with my dad in our family’s old green station wagon. It was just the two of us and we had just finished a daddy/daughter breakfast date at McDonald’s. I had ordered the sausage biscuit and my dad ordered the hotcakes like always.

I was five or six years old.

On our way to the church office after breakfast we sang songs like, “Old MacDonald” and “This is the Day” together. I loved to sing.

After singing, I remember my dad explaining to me why Jesus died on the cross. He told me that Jesus died because I was a sinner and my sin deserved to be punished.

He told me that Jesus took my “spanking” by dying for me.

It wasn’t the first time that my dad had told me about Jesus. From as early as I can remember my parents were talking to me about God.

All I knew was that I wanted to know Jesus. I wanted Him to be my friend. My dad told me that Jesus wanted to be my friend too and that’s why He came to earth and died.

All I had to do was believe in Jesus.

I did.

I don’t know why that particular memory of us driving to the church office is seared in my mind.  Maybe it’s because we ate at McDonald’s, maybe it’s because we were singing, but I think it’s probably because God was working in my heart through the words of my dad.

Driving with my dad to the church office was something that my brothers and I did a lot since we were the pastor’s kids.

I never resented being a pastor’s kid. I embraced it.

But it wasn’t always easy. Sometimes it was really hard.

I remember one day getting really upset because someone said something mean about my dad. I was hurt and I wanted to defend him.

I went to my dad and told them what they had said and I fully expected him to get upset, but he didn’t.

He didn’t even say anything mean about the person who said it. Instead he said something nice.

I was so surprised. “Dad, how can you keep on going when people say stuff like that?” I asked. I knew that if someone said something like that about me, I would just quit.

I’ll never forget my dad’s answer. He said, “GraceAnna, if I were in ministry simply to please people, I would have quit a long time ago. I’m in ministry to please God.”

His response shifted my perspective off of others and onto Christ.

I let my frustration go, and instead looked to Christ.

The word “honor” is not a word that I use very often. But when I think of my dad, I think of this word.

To honor someone is to go beyond respect and to bend over backwards to show respect for other people.

My dad showed me what the word honor meant that day. And he showed it to me so many more times, and he still shows me what it means today.

I’m thankful for my dad on this father’s day for so many things. But when I think of what I’m thankful for most, it’s that He has always pointed me to Christ.

And he has sought to live His life so that others would see Christ.

Thank you dad for introducing me to my perfect Heavenly Father.

I love you. Happy Father’s Day.

Hymns for a Kid’s Heart

My mom used to rock my brothers and me to sleep every night singing hymns. My Grandma did too. I have lots of verses of hymns memorized that I sing to AudreyKate every night. I wish I knew more.

A couple years ago I picked up a book called, “Hymns for a Kid’s Heart” from my church bookstore in N.C. I thought I would save it for my kids one day.

However, I pulled it out yesterday because my nephews spent the night. We used it for our morning devotions. Yesterday we learned about Martin Luther and the hymn he wrote, “A Mighty Fortress is our God.” Today we read about Reginald Heber and the hymn he wrote, “Holy, Holy, Holy.” My nephew Luke loved saying “Reginald, Reginald…” over and over again.

Each hymn and story about the author is also accompanied by a Bible verse. Each “lesson” is packed with theological truths that can lead from conversation to conversation. Just this morning we talked about seraphim, what the word “holy” means and how important it is to thank God for everything.

And there is an awesome CD that accompanies the book, so we were able to listen to the hymns sung by children.

I found out there are more books in the series. I know I’ll be purchasing them for future little Castleberries.

The Face of God

I was cleaning out the trunk of my car this morning and I found this sermon on a CD. Grant’s mom sent it to me when Grant and I were dating. Grant gave this sermon in the summer of 2004, when he was just barely 20 years old!
I listened to it this morning and smiled because I enjoyed it as much as I did the first time I heard it. I am so thankful to be married to a man who tells me so often that he just loves God’s Word so much. I am praying for God to raise up more young men who desire to be pastors and teachers of His Word. And if we are ever blessed with sons, I pray that they would have a heart and love for God’s Word.

I especially love his armadillo story 🙂