Thursday, January 31, 2013


In what is one of the most well known and often quoted descriptions of love, patience is the virtue listed first. 

Love is patient.

I love my three little ones so deeply; I’d lay down my life for them. But as much as I love them, and as much as I know I’d willingly sacrifice things of great value for their good, I often fail to parent them, in the ordinary moments of their lives, with patience.

Impatience has such power and, when I look honestly into my own heart, is often the overflow of anger and sin. I know that life with little ones is going to have moments of legitimate exasperation, moments where it’s probably quite alright to sigh, irritated that the entire box of cheerios, rather than merely half the box, was spilled across the floor. Exasperation is altogether distinct from the angry impatience that I glimpse lurking, at times, in my heart.

The impatience that I’m speaking of sounds less like an exasperated sigh and more like an angry snarl, quick to emerge when things don’t go as I’d like.

My oldest son is about to have his fifth birthday, which means that though I’m still relatively new to this whole parenting thing, I have also had a few years to see both good and bad trends in our home and in my own heart. For sure, there have been days or seasons of much grace where a slow, tender patience has been the theme. But a recurring struggle for me, and I know many other parents, is a desire but often failure to respond to the challenging moments of parenthood with a gentle patience.

Though patience is in many ways a spiritual struggle, there are also many practical elements that play a part. Of the many, there are four that come to mind.

1 ~ Getting enough sleep. How I parent my children in the morning is often connected to how early I chose to go to bed the night before. It’s not always possible to retire early, and sufficient rest, particularly in the early years, seems so elusive. But when it is possible, and when how much sleep is a choice within my power to control (as in, the choice to stop reading or writing or browsing Facebook or watching something on Netflix), I want to remember that loving my kids with patience the next day is more attainable after sufficient rest.

2 ~ Avoiding being late and rushing. Whenever we’re rushing to get somewhere and I haven’t allotted enough time for the process of getting our family out the door, I find myself angry and impatient over things that are light and innocent. If we’re not rushing, it can be funny to see how long long it takes a three-year-old to get their thumb in the thumb-hole of their mittens, or a four-year-old to zip up their snow-suit. But if we’re running late and rushing through this process, you’d see anger and impatience etched across my features. That is so sad and so wrong. 

3 ~ Not assuming the worst motive when kids make a mess. Children are mess-makers, and it’s actually almost impressive how quickly and thoroughly tiny little people are able to utterly trash a clean room. As kids grow older, there are, of course, many scenarios in which children need to learn how to keep things orderly. But I’ve come to realize that there are many mess-making instances, especially with preschoolers, when they’re not being little jerks intent upon messing things up. Before the impatient rebuke or instruction leaves the tongue, it can be wise to pause, assume no motive, and simply ask them what they’re doing; I’m often surprised by what I hear. The other day during an afternoon snack of yogurt, 3-year-old Joshua lifted a heaping spoonful to his mouth, paused, and, with an intent expression, inhaled deeply and then proceeded to blow the yogurt all over the table. My intuitive response in moments like that is to swoop in and clean, with a cascade of impatient words instructing him to stop making such a mess. A moment of quiet patience brought about something very different: Josh looked at the yogurt-splattered mess before him, and his beautiful face almost immediately settled into the contours of regret. He lifted his eyes to my own, and it was as though he assumed the forthcoming rebuke. Instead, I asked him a question: "Why did you do that, Joshy?" His words both softened my heart and continue to prompt me, at appropriate times, to give my little three-year-old the benefit of the doubt. “I was pretending that my yogurt was really, really, REALLY hot and that I needed to blow on it to cool it down. I didn’t mean to make a mess. I’m really sorry, Mommy.”

4 ~ Kissing them as often as possible. There are so many moments when, in the rush of life and the pattern of my own impatience, I seem to forget who these precious children are; I seem to forget they are these joy-filled blessings entrusted to my care. A moment of pausing from the rush of buckling kids into car seats or shoving small feet into boots, a moment taken to lean forward and gently kiss a child’s face is a surprisingly powerful way to slow the frenetic pace, to remember what this thing called parenting is all about.

What is parenting about? Well, a lot of things, I guess. And of course, there are many elements of parenting that can be complex, detailed, and with room for varied opinions.

But if there is one mark of parenting upon which we would all agree, it is this: Parenting is about love.

And love is patient.

If I love my children, I will not be complacent about the angry impatience that too often bubbles from within. As I strive to grow, as I seek to love them better, I will open God’s word and look to my own Heavenly Father who has loved me, His daughter, with such a gentle, patient love.

Friday, January 25, 2013


I sit slumped forward, discouraged, and hope runs thin as I replay the conversation. Why did I choose to be annoyed? Why did I choose to speak harshly? Why did I choose to let it get under my skin instead of absorbing the offense?

I know there’s a time to stick up for myself or clarify another’s misconception. But there’s also a time to choose to let things go, to absorb the insult, to respond with grace and kindness even though it seems so contrary to my natural response. 

I’m a Christian. I have a new heart, and one that is not of stone but is of flesh. This new heart it supposed to be soft and loving and my speech is supposed to be seasoned with grace.I continue thinking about the same conversation and I hear the unkind, impatient words that I spoke. Where is the softness? Where is the grace?

My heart is heavy, weighted. I wish I could simply rewind and redo the last few minutes. I chose to speak hard words of anger; I chose to do what was wrong when there was such a clear choice to do what was right.

But grace…

Sin is ugly and glaring, but it will not control, nor will it have the final say. Sin that leads to sorrow that brings me to Christ upon that cross that softens my heart in repentance that allows me to find forgiveness that covers me in His grace. What an intricate, compassionate design.

The weight lifts. The burden eases. The sorrow is replaced with peace. Peace: something that, even moments before, I was clawing at but that was out of my reach.

My mind returns to that recent conversation where I fell so short of the mark, where I was cold and annoyed and impatient and unloving. I can’t help but think how it’s altogether effortless to be gracious in the easy moments but that it’s a testimony to His goodness when graciousness abounds in difficulty, when graciousness marks me even when I’m responding to unkindness. 

I’m reasonably good at loving people when they’ve shown love towards me. I often fail at loving people well when they’ve hurt me. There’s nothing remarkable in the former; there’s something uniquely Christian in the latter.

I speak these words to someone I love:

“It was wrong to be short-tempered, to be unkind to you. I should have been gracious; I have every reason in the world to be gracious. Would you forgive me?”

How sweet it is, to hear words of love and forgiveness spoken in return. Repentance and forgiveness brings such freedom, such joy, such life.

There is no delight in sin or in the heaviness that descends. But there is a moment of profound, indescribable beauty when repentance is met with forgiveness.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013


According to the Oxford dictionary, a technophobe is a person who fears, dislikes, or avoids new technology. I’m a mere 34-years-old, and if I’m blessed with long life, I’ve got about fifty years of technological change ahead of me. For a technophobe, that’s terrifying.

At present, when I wake up one morning and my iPhone has a magically darkened screen, leaving me almost unable to read a thing, I leave it that way for a couple days because I have no idea what the heck has happened or how to fix it. I feel something akin to a rush of victory when I successfully download an album from iTunes, feeling as though I’ve just done something youthful and even, dare I say, techie. A couple months ago my husband downloaded a newer version of Microsoft Word and I still, weeks later, feel paralyzed when I use it because all the little icons at the top have switched spots and even changed graphics and I’m fearful to click. (I know, I know. Playing around is the only way to figure it out and abandon my fear. Truthfully, navigating my way through a raging blizzard sounds a bit more fun to me than navigating my way through a new computer program.) As I sit here and type, an anti-virus warning has popped up (twice, actually) and I’ve clicked on “remind me later” because I’m hesitant to either accept it or fully dismiss it; either option could ruin the computer, I reckon, so it seems wise to just indefinitely click “remind me later,” right? Recently, when I tried to visit one of the blogs I frequently read and a message informed me that “this site is temporarily down for maintenance,” I believed that there were thousands of adorable, microscopically small elves dressed in custodian apparel, feverishly at work inside the hard drive, sweeping and dusting all the tiny wires.

OK, so that last example was obviously untrue, and an attempt to make light of my own technophobe stupidity. But every other example is commonplace, surrounded by dozens more, and, I know from talking with others like me, not a unique response.

The element of all this that brings unease is not that I will need to navigate my way through an increasingly technological world for possibly the next fifty years, but that I need to raise my three young children to navigate their way through this world as well. I don’t feel equipped to do this. I’m not too worried about the techie side of things—in all likelihood my kids will be walking ME through the tech side of stuff before long. But I feel ill-equipped to walk them through a childhood and adolescence that is increasingly different from my own.

Technological gadgets already have such a strong, almost hypnotic allure for all three of my children. A couple nights ago I was at IKEA with my little ones and as we traveled in the elevator, 3-year-old Joshua saw an iPhone resting in the hand of a complete stranger. Almost as though in a trance, he looked up at this big, burly man and said “Can I please play with your phone?” The man chuckled and politely responded, “Sorry, buddy. I’m actually getting off in a second.”  

This past weekend we had some dear friends come to dinner and at one point, as we sat around our kitchen table, 4-year-old Jake started regaling our guests with tales of the various unsuitable X-Factor clips that he’s watched on YouTube. Quite animatedly, he described how this one hopeful star pulled down his pants in front of the judges to prove to them that he had the names of six girls tattooed on his rear. “It was so funny!” Jake concluded with a laugh and a contented sigh. My friends were trying to stifle their laughter while I was trying to mask my horror. You see, we don’t have cable, rarely watch television, and the kids are only allowed to play with any type of ‘screen’ on the weekend. It’s not like there are no boundaries in place whatsoever.  Curious as to when he had seen this and how he happened to have such a detailed account of the scenario, I asked, “Have you watched this more than once, Jake?” His response: “Yup. Tons of times, Mom. On your iPhone.” It was a moment where I was thankful for gracious, non-judgmental friends.

My instinct in all this is to wish I could stick my head in the sand, not let my kids have cell phones until after they’re married, and forbid Facebook accounts until they have children of their own. But that’s not the right instinct. Definitely clear boundaries along with a thoughtful, biblical approach to their use of technology is good; simply saying “NO!” is probably not so good. But in either case, as a parent of young children, the pulse of my heart quickens because I see clearly the ways that I’ve already failed, and I wonder if I will be equipped in the months and years to come. Will I be equipped to properly establish both time and content boundaries for my children? Will I be equipped to teach them how to use technology for good? Will I be equipped to teach my children, when they’re older, how to use social media for the good of others and to the glory of God when I barely have a grip on how to do that myself? Will I be equipped to teach them why they must wait until they’re older to have some of the devices that I know their friends will have at a much younger age? Will I be equipped to cultivate hearts that seek to love and serve others in a world where how well they are ‘liked’ will literally, at times, become measured in numbers and notifications?

And then, maybe most of all, will they look to me and see a woman, a mother, who uses technology for good? Will I be equipped to consistently live out those philosophies that I attempt to teach? If my children, one day years from now, scroll through my Facebook page from 2008 until the present, will they see the words of a mature woman whose speech has been seasoned with grace, whose desire has been to love God with all my heart and soul and mind and strength, and then love the person beside me as I love myself? My heart settles, just a little, as I remember that we've been given a standard of loving and living that transcends time and technology; everything in life can be filtered through that grid, really.

The fear of technology is a light one, and is something that I know could theoretically be overcome with an open mind and a greater willingness to learn. The fear that rests weightier is that I’ll fail to teach my precious children how to use the technology that is already at their little fingertips, that is already the desire of their little hearts.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013


Some of the best conversations with kids happen just before bedtime, as they’re getting sleepy and their minds are becoming beautifully fuzzy. Sometimes the conversations are profound, giving a window into their childhood struggles and questions. Other times, the conversations are delightfully silly bordering on total nonsense.

Then there are the conversations that fall somewhere in between those two extremes: there is the silliness of a young child mixed with the love and depth that is visible when they’re sleepily, transparently, just being who they are. A couple weeks back, I had a conversation like this with Joshua. 

What follows are the words I wrote down immediately after he fell asleep that night. I should write down conversations more often. I always think I’ll remember them but never do, unless I take the time to write them down in the moment.


I'm getting Josh changed into his pajamas, and as I unbutton his blue, plaid shirt, I 'm telling him how much I love him. "What would I do without you, my little man? What would I do without my Josh?" I don’t expect an answer.

His voice is quiet, almost absent-minded. "You'd have to get a new Josh, I guess."

I smile. He’s a good problem solver. "But there's only one YOU. There's only one Josh. I could never replace you, Joshua James Galotti."

He thinks about this for a few moments. "Well, then I will never leave you, Mommy. I will stay with you forever.”

His big green eyes look into my own, and the usual playfulness is replaced with earnestness. "But, if I do have to leave you then I will give you my new pet stuffy." To demonstrate his sincerity, he holds up his new little stuffed animal, a black puppy that, upon receiving the day before from his Aunt Nat and Aunt Caiah, he promptly named Jakson in honor of one of his cousins.

"And Mommy," he continues, his words increasingly solemn, "This pet stuffy has superpowers and will protect you. He blows orange and blue fire out of his mouth and will keep you safe if I'm gone."

“Thank you, my sweet, fierce boy. I love you.” 

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


My favorite foods are the kinds that are delicious and don’t have any calories.

Did you know that if you eat just one bite of cake, even if it’s a heaping bite, and even if it’s repeated with more solitary bites later on, in that moment of indulgence it’s a calorie-free bite of food. An entire slice of cake would, obviously, have hundreds of calories. But if each bite is eaten on its own, alone, and with no intention to have more, than it’s wonderfully calorie free. Awesome, right?

Or if you’re making chocolate chip cookies and pop a bite of raw cookie dough into your mouth, that’s also got zero calories. Butter and sugar can’t possibly contain calories when it’s not yet been baked.

There’s actually an entire list of delightful zero-calorie bites, and it’s all about method, not substance. 

For instance, whenever any treat is broken into pieces and shared with others, it’s calorie free. A timbit (a munchkin, or donut hole, for you non-Canadians) that is broken into several pieces, then passed around and shared, doesn’t have any calories. Or if I’m out to dinner with Justin and I order a salad with my chicken (because I do, after all, have about twenty pounds to lose) but then steal a couple of large, crispy french fries off his plate, they’re zero calories. I mean, if I was so disciplined when I chose not to order them, they couldn’t possibly somehow have calories on another person’s plate, right? Oh, and a bite of that medium-rare prime rib that’s dripping in garlic butter and smothered in sautéed mushrooms that I force him to share?  Also zero calories. 

It’s a brilliant system.

If you have followed my logic, then there is no need for further explanation. If you haven’t, then further explanation won’t really help anyway. You either know what I’m talking about, or you don’t. (If you don’t, you’re one of the lucky ones on a number of different levels.)

Zero-calorie bites of delicious, fattening food. Except…

Such a thing simply doesn’t exist. If you’ve ever been out of shape and trimmed down, one of the things you learn is that every bite really does add up. A 25-calorie bite here and a 50-calorie bite there, whether it’s a decadent bite of cheesecake or the dry, whole-grain bread of my kid’s leftover peanut-butter sandwich, really does add up surprisingly quickly.

I have a version of zero-calorie bites in my Christian life: I have zero-calorie sins. I have those invisible things in my heart and those other things that may, at times, be visible to friends and family that would not make anyone gasp in horror or even really notice. There are those sins that I have somehow become OK with. The small, bite-sized sins; the stuff I’m complacent about because, really, it’s just not that bad; it’s just a bite and it doesn’t add up to much and it doesn’t really affect my overall character.

But there is no such thing. There are no zero-calorie bites. There are no acceptable sins.

 My husband recently preached from the first chapter of I Peter:
And remember that the heavenly Father to whom you pray has no favorites. He will judge or reward you according to what you do. So you must live in reverent fear of him during your time as “foreigners in the land.” For you know that God paid a ransom to save you from the empty life you inherited from your ancestors. And the ransom he paid was not mere gold or silver. It was the precious blood of Christ, the sinless, spotless Lamb of God.
Redeemed, saved, justified by the precious blood of Christ. The ultimate price for my sin already paid; my eternal destiny forever secure because of the sacrifice of the sinless, spotless Lamb of God. My heart rests in such truth and give thanks for such sacrifice. But even as my heart rests, it also longs to put careless, ‘small’ sin to death.
"When we sin, we sin as those who know that a precious price was paid to take away our sin. And one day, we will stand before God and answer for the sins we committed while we were believers; sin we committed while knowing what a precious price was paid for them."

Wednesday, January 2, 2013


Before the old year changed into this new one, I had been talking with my 4-year-old about resolutions. He had heard conversations, I guess, and asked me what resolutions were. My response was intentionally simple. “We think about who we are and how we live our life, and if we see things that aren’t good, we resolve to change these things.” I shared with him how one of the ways that I want to grow and change is to try harder to be a mother who is patient with him and his brother and his sister.

Later, I heard Jake explaining resolutions to his younger brother. “You have to try harder at things, Josh. You have to try harder to obey Mom, and you have to try harder to obey God.”

As I heard his words I felt my heart twinge; how entirely incomplete my description had been. Sure, trying harder is an element of resolve, whether in a new year or any time. Our determination to grow and put sin to death are part of His design to sanctify. But striving, though biblical and essential, is only one part of the gracious whole of sanctification. If a ‘try-harder’ determination becomes central, failed resolve or sin can bring us face to face with despair instead of to the foot of the cross.

For the Christian, resolve was never meant to operate alone. Striving to be free of sin and to grow in grace was always intended to flow out of our relationship with Christ as we rest in His finished work and abide in His perfect love. My resolve, as a mom, to grow in patience and gentleness is a good and attainable one. Growth and change in every part of who we are, how we live, how we love, is possible when we’re in Christ. An old year ending and a new one beginning is a hopeful and appropriate time to reflect and resolve. The sun rises on a new day, a new year, and time stretches out in front of us with much possibility. We thank the Designer for the pattern of time, of days and years that have the rhythm of endings and beginnings.

We wake up, looking out the window at a winter landscape and it sparkles with the indescribable beauty of a world covered in freshly fallen snow.

There is such hope.

The sin of our past made no more, blotted out and covered. We bow, knowing that through Christ that is us, spotless and sparkling white. Through Him we have been made new, and our resolve to grow more like Him actually is possible.  The future is bright, hopeful.

Until we fail. Until we sin. Until we angrily yell at the tiny child that we just resolved to love with a gentle patience.

Suddenly the pristine covering of white that earlier this very day sparkled clean in the morning sun glistens no longer; it’s now dull, spoiled and in the shadows of twilight. How quickly the optimism of fresh resolve is tarnished by failure and sin. It’s not inevitable and it doesn't always happen that way. In Christ we are new and we really do have the choice this year, this day, to live new lives.  But the old person, the old failures, the old sin, the Old has such little respect for what has been made new.

This is when we must live in remembrance of Him, remembering that our hope is not because of the power of fresh resolve. Our sin brings us to the cross where we look again to our Savior who bled crimson so that we could be made whiter than snow.

Fresh resolve is a good thing. But when the resolve wanes and the failures come and the sin looms ugly, we don’t just try harder. Our striving is sheltered in gentle and ever- falling grace.

In Christ, we will surely know victory and growth this year. But there will be failure too. There will be sin. There will be so many moments when we glimpse our hearts and are horrified by the ugliness that yet lingers within.

Confession. Repentance. Forgiveness.

And then rest.

We’ll wake up to a new day and we’ll look outside and see softly falling snow. We’ll see our world, our lives, our hearts, once so drab and dirty, freshly covered in a layer of perfect, sparkling white. Fresh grace dazzles, does it not? And the only response is to give thanks.