Category Archives: top 10

[top 10] things going on in my life lately

it’s been a while! much has happened & changed in my life over the last 9-10 months, so i thought a top 10 list would be an easy way to catch up with ya’ll.

10. i had another kid.

so, i planned to post regularly on here starting last september, & then i got pregnant. i had no idea how tired i would be this time around. we’re talking epic fatigue. and that’s coming from someone who has a chronic fatigue condition! anyways, we welcomed maya lizbon casteel into the world & our lives on april 11, 2016. she’s a super chill, easy baby, & we kinda like her.

maya lizbon

maya lizbon


9. my father-in-law has cancer.

this is the sad news in our family. he had prostate & kidney cancer a couple years ago, & surgery plus radiation were thankfully enough to take care of those. however, his recent scans showed mets in the lungs, brain, & bones. fortunately, there are hopeful treatments for each location, & we are full of hope that he will be with us for a long time yet. still, cancer has a way of making your perspective & priorities change.


8. we found a church to go to, for now.

we spent 2015 looking for a new church to attend with little success until september. we finally happened upon a community that meets our needs & wants pretty well. we made a commitment at the beginning of this year to attend this church regularly this year & see if it’s the place we want to settle [i.e. do the whole membership thing].


7. we returned to our old church for the first time.

leaving a church is a hard thing. shaun & i have done it twice, & both times rank in the top 5 hardest things/times of my life. returning to your old church to visit can be nearly as difficult. but i’ve found it also offers a much-needed sense of peace & closure. we just visited for the first time to attend the graduating seniors celebration. the last of our youth group is graduating this year, so we wanted to be sure we were there. and it was a perfect evening of catching up with old friends, family.


6. our last kids are graduating.

did i mention that the last of our youth group is graduating this year? cue the tears, & pass the tissues. the kids who were in 6th grad when we took up leadership of the youth ministry for a brief year & a half are now seniors, very shortly to be graduates. my, how time flies. we are so proud of the young adults they have become, of all they have accomplished, of all the potential they are going to be fulfilling in the coming days. it’s bittersweet.

with our graduating girls

with our graduating girls


5. i’m prepping for a whole30 in june. 

i have to admit, i didn’t do such a great job eating healthfully during this last pregnancy. i was a slave to my lack of appetite & my cravings. most of the time, i didn’t eat or i ate junk. fortunately, i didn’t gain a ton of weight, but i definitely feel the need to reset my habits & get back to healthfulness. my favorite way to reset is doing a round of whole30, so for the month of june, i’ll be following the program. it takes a lot of work upfront, menu planning & food prep, so i’ve been immersed in that lately.


4. i’m prepping for camp in july.

every summer, i work at a summer camp for teens, the same one i grew up going to. this year is going to be a very different year for me. it’s the first time in seven years that shaun won’t be going with me. it’s the first time in 19 years that my sister won’t be there with me. it’s the first time in 10+ years that i won’t be counseling in the cabins. it’s the first time ever that i’ll be teaching with someone other than my sister. and it’s the first time i’ll be going with a kiddo in tow. [well, i have gone with both bianca & richie, but they were teens, not babies, so it doesn’t really count!] prepping for camp this year is looking very different, too. mostly, i’m trying to plan how i’m going to travel solo with two kids, a 2-year-old & a 2-month-old, what i need to pack to survive a week at camp with a baby, & how my participation will look. some time in the coming month, we’ll get teaching assignments, & then i’ll be working on that with my co-teacher.


3. we’re hardcore working on the casa.

in preparation for a new baby & then a summer staying home with baby & toddler, house projects have consumed our to do lists & time. i have been on a decluttering kick which has lately attacked my clothing closet & art/craft supplies. my latest achievement has been turning the office into a half-office-half-playroom so i can work while the girls play [aka roo plays & maya sleeps]. right now as i type this, roo is busy coloring at her own little table. it’s amazing how much STUFF a house can accumulate, & i’m tired of all the junk. we’re trying to embrace minimalism more & more. this summer will continue my ruthless rampage, & i hope to tackle the basement. yikes.


2. i’m doing “summer school” with roo.

as a former preschool teacher, i can’t help myself. i have to use these days home with my toddler in formative, educational ways. so i developed a color-of-the-week curriculum to do with her this summer. this week is “rainbow week.” we’re starting with an overview of all the colors, going to the zoo, & painting rainbows. a lot of the activities i have prepared for her are ones she can do during independent play while i write or work around the house or take care of maya. but there are activities & learning time every day where she gets focused one-on-one time with me. she’s used to having structure & instruction from being in daycare, so i think it’s important to continue that during the summer months. plus, it’s fun for both of us!


1. we’re celebrating our 13th anniversary.

today actually! poor shaun has put up with me with calm kindness & humor all these years, so it is certainly worthy of celebration. we’ll go out with the girls tonight so i don’t have to make dinner, but we’ll celebrate just the two of us later this month.

us, circa 2008

us, circa 2008


i guess that’s the big stuff. feel free to catch me up on how you’re doing, too! maya’s crying, so time for me to sign off, but i’ll be back again soon. promise.

my august [top 10]

where did the summer go?! it’s been quite the blur for me & the casteel casa. we traveled quite a bit, & the day-in, day-out demands of taking care of a growing, increasingly mobile baby has kept me distracted from many things i also love doing. but a lot has also changed over the last three months for us, so let me share some highlights from the last month!

10. books on my nightstand:
>> divergent by veronica roth
>> faith unraveled by rachel held evans
>> bringing up bébé by pamela drukerman
>> made to crave by lysa terkeurst

9. song stuck in my head:
>> all things pentatonix — we’re seeing them october 1st!

8. favorite quote right now:
>> “not my circus, not my monkeys.” [polish proverb] — this reminds me to focus on only the things i have control &/or responsibility over & to let go of all the rest.

7. can’t-do-without accessory:
>> betsy, my gorgeous cowhide bag that can hold my laptop, notebook, & myriad of purse-ish stuff for all day away from home.

6. must-see tv [or netflix]:
>> just started warehouse 13, & i like it so far.

5. annual goal i’m most focused on:
>> converting to clean-ish eating — i’ve been doing a lot of reading & planning through august & have declared this month to be self-care september. b/c if i don’t take care of myself, how can i take care of my kiddo, my other precious relationships, my ministry opportunities, etc.

4. habits i’m trying to break:
>> being on my phone late at night — trying to cut it off at least one hour before bedtime…
>> biting my nails [although i don’t really bite them; it’s more just picking at them, but same result.]

3. most looking forward to:
>> my birthday!!! — only 12 days away to my own personal holiday
>> the pentatonix concert on october 1st — been listening to all their albums on repeat at work every day.
>> autumn coming soon — cooler mornings, crisp evenings, pumpkin spice lattes, bonfires, sweaters & boots, i love all of it!

2. heavy on my heart:
>> the violence in gaza, the ebola outbreak in africa, the injustice in ferguson — so many people suffering & my heart breaks most for the children involved, for the next generation & the legacy we leave them.

3. what’s new with me:
>> i got a JOB!!! — after six months of being a stay-at-home-mom, i can decidedly say it’s not for me. i love elaina roo like crazy, but 10 hours straight 5 days a week with just her & me also equals crazy. the story of getting this job is long & incredible & so obviously God-led. i’ll spare you all the details because it’s long!

i’m keenly aware of the blessing of having a job. so many people are entrenched in long-term job searches & the struggles that come from that situation. also, now experiencing how much better each day is now that roo & i have some separation reminds me daily how blessed i am.

roo goes to daycare at a local church that our niece paige also attends, & roo simply loves it. she is in a room with mostly walkers, so she is the baby & doted on by all of them. it’s pretty precious. the increased attention & entertainment [from just watching & interacting with the other kids] has almost completely eradicated her fussy, needy afternoon routine. it means our time together in the afternoons/evenings is much better quality for all of us.

AND i love what i do — i work at purdue university for a friend in the college of technology, department of technology leadership & innovation. i’m the “marketing & media coordinator” helping them launch new branding, design a website, create social media policies, take photos, write a message map, & so much more. it’s part-time, meaning i still get to work at our church in the conneXions ministry some, & unless i have a super busy work week, roo & i still have a day to ourselves every thursday. i love, love, love it.


so, what’s new with you?

my april [top 10]

i can’t believe it’s already the end of april, & i have a 3-month-old daughter. wow. give me a sec to get over the surreality. lots of good things worth sharing from the last month, so here goes.

10. books on my nightstand:
>> persuasion by jane austen [a reread]
>> practicing resurrection by eugene peterson
>> a year of biblical womanhood by rachel held evans [a reread]
>> breaking dawn by stephanie meyer [a reread]

9. song stuck in my head:
>> “can you feel the love tonight” by elton john [i started playing disney pandora station for roo.]

8. mantra i repeat to myself all day long:
>> “just go with the flow.”

7. can’t-do-without accessory:
>> my newest “ring” — an extra pacifier for roo, to be hand on-hand [literally] at all times!

6. must-see tv [or netflix]:
>> still supernatural [on season 6 right now]

5. annual goal i’m most focused on:
>> writing for 1 hour every day [before roo wakes up!]

4. what’s working for me:
>> donald miller’s storyline productivity schedule — highly recommend! [i wrote about it here.]

3. latest addiction:
>> dr. pepper, always. [i even wrote a poem about it for national poetry month…]
>> golden oreos with chocolate creme filling — yummo!

2. heavy on my heart:
>> i have lots of friends who have recently lost parents or have one dying. they’re all older & ready to go, & their families are at peace, but it’s still hard.

1. most looking forward to:
>> honestly, my first mother’s day. [it’s a little bit of a sensitive topic, for me & for others, so i’ll just leave it at that for now.]


so, what’s new with you?

my march [top 10]

i apologize for being m.i.a. for so long! being pregnant affected my energy levels more than i could ever have anticipated, & now we have a sweet little two-month-old that keeps me busy around the clock. being a “real” mom now adds alot of material to my being a student of life. but i could write volumes on that. later. too much has happened over the past several months to catch up on all at once, so i thought i’d revive my monthly top 10 to at least catch up on the past one month.

10. books on my nightstand:
>> eclipse by stephanie meyer
>> northanger abbey by jane austen
>> believing God by beth moore
>> girl at the end of the world by elizabeth esther

9. song stuck in my head:
>> “raise your glass” by pink [except i’ve changed alot of the words so i can sing it to & about my baby girl!]

8. habit i’m working on:
>> stealing away time for prayer every morning, midday, & evening

7. can’t-do-without accessory:
>> my “flow” necklace, to remind me to take it one day at a time


6. must-see tv [or netflix]:
>> supernatural [currently working my way back through all the seasons. how many times does dean die?!]

5. annual goal i’m most focused on:
>> reading, reading, & more reading [going for 42+ books this year]

4. what i’m saving money for:
>> a pottery class [learning to use a pottery wheel is one of my 2014 goals.]

3. latest addiction:
>> dr. pepper, again.
>> instaquote. coolest app ever!

Picture 3

2. most looking forward to:
>> holy week — i love attending mass, & for the first time my church is hosting a good friday service with other area churches. plus, my parents are coming to visit!

1. heavy on my heart:
>> the recent world vision rollercoaster & the disunity within the Church [not on issues so much as on how we treat one another regarding our disagreements]


i encourage you to take the time to reflect on what’s fun/important/happening in your life right now, too. reflection is important!

[top 10] reasons i still go to camp

i’m in the car with shaun on our way to north carolina to spend a week at carolina bible camp. it’s my favorite place in the world & my favorite week of the year. when i tell people i’m going to camp, especially one 11 hours from where i live, i get a lot of odd looks! aren’t i too old to still be going to camp? couldn’t i go to one closer? well, in the traditional c.b.c. fashion, here is a top 10 list of reasons i still go to camp:


10. tie dye — where else is it acceptable to have multi-colored hands from tie dye? and what would i do with all my stained t-shirts without it?

9. spades [the game] — now that i live in the midwest, the home of euchre [or as i call it, pansy spades], i crave the afternoon & late night spades games with old friends.
8. air-conditioned cabins — a must in north carolina july heat & humidity [at least in my book!]
7. top 10 lists — our assistant director, the venerable geoffrey sikes, captures our hearts & minds at dinner every evening with one of his original top 10 lists. these are the stuff of legend, & i often mark different years of camp by a particular top 10.
6. teaching — of all things, teaching is my favorite thing to do, especially when i get to teach teens. i learned how to teach at c.b.c. by having great teachers growing up & by being given the opportunity to teach starting 10 years ago by our dear friend & education director, jayson rawley. teaching at camp has been pivotal in my spiritual growth, in great part due to getting to partner with my sister, vanessa, an incredibly gifted teacher. i look forward to doing it again every year.
5. the singing — from “arky, arky” led by our beloved chester rainwater to our annual late night all-girls singing. but the best is friday night singing. to me, it’s the closest thing to heaven this side of eternity. it’s my favorite night of every year.
4. mountaintop recharge — while we can’t live on the mountaintop, it is necessary that we periodically take time from every day life to unplug from the world & recharge with God. camp is one of those times for me each year. i come away with renewed sense of purpose, conviction, & zeal.
3. the people — where to begin? our fun-loving director, dennis conner, who does a great ostrich impression, gathers an amazing staff every year. the regular staff have taught me, challenged me, & mentored me for the past seventeen years. they have poured themselves into my & others’ lives in the hopes of helping us live for God with our everything. getting to work alongside them now is a privilege, & they continue to spur me on toward Christ.
2. the people — i’ve grown up with several of my fellow staff. we were campers together. we know where each other has been; we’ve seen each other grow; we’ve been part of each others’ growing. i get to see so many of my dearest & best friends in the world every year this week at camp. i love our late night talks & spades games, raiding the kitchen leftovers & laughing till we cry.
1. the people — out of all my reasons for still going to camp, without contest, the number one reason is the campers. it is my passion to reach out to these teens. they need a safe place & safe people that let them ask questions — hard ones, that wrestle through the answers & unknowns with them, that show them an example of choosing to follow Christ after high school, that show them it’s okay & normal to be imperfect but that it’s also possible to change & grow & conquer a particular struggle. others have dine this for me. i came to camp my first year a messed up, rebellious teen who had stopped believing in God. God used camp & the people here to break through my stone heart, to show me the beauty of the church when it works, to start me on a lifelong journey of serving Him. i am forever changed because of this camp, & i want to be an instrument to do the same good in others’ lives. i want to pass on what was given to & done for me. my campers are so precious to me. i love spending time with them, learning from them, & seeing them grow over the years. they are the biggest & most important reason i come back every single year.
i’m at camp now, which means i’ll be signing off from the online world for the next week. i would appreciate all prayers you can send Godward for us! may He use this week to do a mighty & transforming work in all of our lives!