Friday, July 25, 2014


She walks by with a saucy look and a sparkle in her eye. Her golden curls catch the late afternoon sun. She’s walking with purpose like she’s got somewhere important to go. She’s two, though. How important can it be? Certain she’s got time for a kiss, I grab her and pull her close. Once she’s in my arms and I know she can’t escape, I hold her chubby cheeks in my hands and say, I love you so much, Ella. Her response tugs at my heart. I know, she simply says. I kiss her nose before sending her on her way.

I know is a common response when we tell Ella we love her, and every time I hear those two words the sweetness of them makes me happy. She’s not being presumptuous with our love nor is she being indifferent to our affection. She’s simply speaking honest, unfiltered two year old words.

I know. I know that you love me.

There’s something wonderfully raw and strikingly sweet about my two year old’s response to her mother’s love.

In those simple words I hear a daughter who has faith in me, who trusts me, who is secure in my love for her. I love her and she knows it. She doesn’t doubt it, not even for a moment. One of the reasons I savor these interactions is because I know that all too soon, with age and maturity, her response will become more refined and more socially appropriate.  

I wonder if, on some level at least, her two year old response is the kind of response that we, as children, are supposed to have with our Father when He speaks words of love to us.

I know. I know you love me, God. I don’t doubt your love for one second. I’m secure in your goodness. I trust your faithfulness. I have faith that your love will never fail. I know.

There are many reasons why the Psalms so naturally stir our affections, but I believe that one of the reasons is this: in King David we see a man who is utterly confident in His Father’s love for him and we long for that kind of confidence. Yes, he speaks of His own love for God. Yes, he writes about God’s glory and grace. Yes, he confesses his sin and need to be made clean. In all these things we can relate. But one of the recurring themes of the Psalms of David is this: the unfailing love of the Lord.

Unfailing love. 

I know. I know you love me. I know your love will not fail.

God wants honesty and transparency from His children. When we’re wrestling, we should tell him. When we doubt his goodness and love for us, there’s nothing that should keep us from speaking to Him with reverent transparency and sharing with Him the ache of our heart. Just like King David and countless others before us we can surely ask, Where are you, God? Why is my heart bowed down? Do you love me?

And yet within a relationship of honesty there’s something fitting about a child who knows—who really, truly, confidently knows—that their parent loves them.

Because really, we don’t have to look any further than the Cross to see eternal words etched in vivid crimson. I love you, my child.

Then the beautiful simplicity of a childlike response.

I know.

Friday, July 18, 2014


For the first couple weeks of summer vacation, while Justin stayed home working hard, the kids and I went on a road trip from Toronto to New York and then to Ottawa to visit family. This meant that we crossed the border twice, first from Canada to the States, and then back from the States into Canada. I always find crossing the border just the tiniest bit worrying, even though I've never done anything wrong or am bringing illegal substances or anything like that. (Well that's not totally true. One time a couple years back, right around Christmas, I forgot that you're not allowed to bring citrus fruit from Canada to the States, and before we'd left our home that morning I'd dumped an entire case of clementines into our snack bag. After I'd admitted to the the custom's official that, yes, there indeed was citrus in our car, he then asked me to pass them to him so he could throw them into his trash. So I started frantically digging them out of the family snack bag and passing them to Justin, who then passed them to the border official, who then dropped them into a bucket. I could tell that after clementines had passed hands about fifteen times and I was still rooting around for the rest of them, both Justin and the custom's official were a combination of annoyed and amused at the ridiculousness of it all. Moments later when we drove away citrus free, Justin said to me, "Man alive, Elisha. When you told him you had a few clementines I thought you meant maybe five or six of them. That was crazy, hon." But I'm getting off topic...)

A couple weeks back I crossed the border with just the three kids. When we pulled up to window, I rolled down the kids' back window as well as my own because I know from prior experience that the border officials often like to ask the children questions as well. (And I love that they do this. It's a good safety precaution to ensure children are travelling with their right adults.) 

After the preliminary questions of where we were going and for how long, the official turned her gaze to the back seat and asked Josh the first question: "Who is the woman driving the car?" Josh paused. And continued to pause. I was trying to make eye contact and glare at him through the rear view mirror, but also realized that if I appeared to be threatening him that probably wouldn't be too wise. Eventually, finally, at long last Josh smiled at her and said, "It's my Mom." That wasn't so hard now, was it?

Next she turned her attention to Ella. I don't even remember what she asked Ella, but I know that Ella just sat there starting at her and didn't utter a word. But she's two. You can't force two years olds to talk if they don't want to talk. No big deal. The custom's official smiled at Ella and said, "You're just little. You don't have to answer."

Then it was Jake's turn. She asked him where his Dad was. I'm sure she was expecting a short, concise answer. Instead, this: "Well, we actually just bought a house. We've been renting for a long time, but now we bought one, and my Dad is renovating it. He's a pastor, but before he was a pastor he was a carpenter so that's how he knows how to do all that stuff. Right now he's working on the electrical for it, and had to take down the ceiling. He had to stay home and work on it because it needs to be ready for us to move. We're moving at the end of July. He wanted to come with us, but he couldn't."

With sparkling eyes and a big grin, the border official passed me back our stack of passports and said, "Ma'am, next time remember to bring a letter from their Dad when you're taking the kids across the border without him. And have a wonderful trip. They're very cute kids."

As we drove away and I felt my blood pressure return to normal levels Josh said, "Mom, you know when she asked me who you were? As a joke I almost said, 'She's just some weird old lady and we don't know who she is.' Would that have been so funny?"

What the heck, buddy? Why do jokes like that even come into your four year old mind?

"No, Joshua James Galotti. That would not have been funny at all. You are always just to tell them the truth when they ask you questions, do you understand?"

And though I didn't think it either relevant or helpful to ask these questions to Josh, I drove along quietly stewing (and smiling) about why in his joke he'd called me both weird and old, when I am clearly neither.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


At the end of June we spent a wonderful, refreshing, relaxing night and day with our dear friends the Goodwins at their cottage near Wasaga Beach. The Georgian Bay was warm and beautiful. And we were so thankful for the sweet hospitality of our friends. (Next time, more than one round of Taboo, OK?)


It's hard to believe that it's already the middle of July. The following are some pictures from last month, from Jake's June Recital at High Park Music. The end of the year is a time to reflect upon the months passed, and, as always, we find ourselves deeply thankful for Jake's teacher, someone who is instilling such a love for music in our son. 

We're proud of all your hard work this year, Jake! 

Monday, July 7, 2014


I recently wrote about being a parent who is slow to get angry with their children. A mother of four who read the article wrote me an email agreeing with everything I’d written but asking that essential question: How? Practically speaking, how do I become a slowly angered parent? Her question is one that many of us have asked. We see the beauty of grace contrasted with the ugliness that yet lingers within us and we find our hearts asking those questions. How do I change? How do I grow? How do I more and more become a parent who is slow to anger and abounding in love?

I can only attempt to answer these questions as someone who is en route, who is but halfway there, who yet knows much failure even amid much grace. These thoughts emerge from the heart of a mother who hasn’t arrived but who is still travelling. What follows are not theoretical or from the past, but are intensely fresh, personal, present, and real.

As parents, before we can change what we do, we often need to first change how we think. At first glance, identifying thought patterns might seem purely theoretical and not of much practical help. But if what we do is often the overflow of how we think, perhaps that’s a good place to begin.

4 Helpful Realizations

1. Realize that the times when we, as parents, are easily angered are often moments ripe with opportunity to teach our children.

The moments when we are naturally angered are often those times when we can teach our children about life, about sin, about grace. Conflict is a part of life in sin filled, broken world. For our children’s entire lives, whether that be in two years when they’re six or in thirty years when they’re parents themselves, they’re going to be dealing with conflict. Often in those moments when we’re easily angered, our instinct is to get things back to a state of peace and quiet as speedily and effortlessly as possible. The children are whining or fighting so we angrily snarl, Enough. Stop it right now! I don’t want to hear it! What a waste of an opportunity. We ought to be willing to take the time to patiently talk, listen, and teach. In our haste to get back to peace, we often want to skip the most important part: their heart.

2. Realize that angry parenting is often deeply selfish.

In our worst parenting moments, think of the words that so often escape our lips. I’m so sick of this. I’m sick and tired of you guys fighting. I don’t want to hear one more whining word. I’ve had it up to here! What’s striking about all these phrases (and maybe even as you read them you heard your own voice) is that they’re all about me. They’re selfish. They’re phrases that give us a glimpse of our heart—our anger is about us and how their behavior is disrupting our life.

But parenting isn’t about us being sick of whining or fighting, is it? Ultimately parenting isn’t about us at all. It’s about our children. It’s about putting ourselves aside to love and nurture and teach and guide them. A quickly angered mother is a selfish mother. I’m angry because the peace and quiet of MY car ride or MY home is being disrupted. It can be helpful to realize afresh the intrinsically selfish quality of the easily angered parent and to then remember that grace-filled parenting is about caring more about others than ourselves.

3. Realize that being easily angered is less about lack of control and more about lack of desire.

The picture underneath is one that has circulated on Facebook.

(photo credit: Message with a Bottle Facebook Page)

This resonates, doesn’t it? It’s meant to be humorous, and I don’t think there’s anything wrong with smiling and seeing the lighter side of an experience that many of us share. It’s good to remember that we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously. But within the humour of this picture, there’s a deeper reality at play: in public, whether that be at the playground with friends or at church on a Sunday morning, when our kids do stuff that makes us mad, we often handle it differently (better, and with more grace!) than if we were at home by ourselves. We’re more patient, aren’t we? More gentle. More kind. More tempered. In other words, we’re better parents. We really do have the self control in the moments of frustration. We really do have the capacity to respond the way we should. When I’m at home, quiet, private, unnoticed by others, it’s not that I lack the control to do what’s right, it’s that I lack the desire.

There’s a sadness in this, isn’t there? It’s sad because, truly, when we think about it, we care way more about what our children see, hear, and think about their mother than we do about what strangers at the park or friends at church think about us. More than that, we care way more about what God thinks about us, too. And yet so often our actions would indicate otherwise. It can be helpful to remember that how we respond really is a choice, and that the people who matter most (our children, our Father) see our parenting all the time.

4. Realize that becoming a slow-to-anger parent is often about reprogramming the muscle memory of the heart.

Much of our time in parenthood is spent reacting to things our children do, and we all have patterns of reaction in our lives. When we reflect upon how we habitually react in moments of frustration, we’re able to discern our own pattern of reaction. For many who are quickly angered, the muscle memory of the heart is to react in anger instead of to react in grace. When we find ourselves habitually reacting in anger instead of reacting in grace, it means we need to repent and then form new heart habits. Eventually, with time and with much grace, we create a new rhythm that changes the muscle memory of our heart.

4 Practical Suggestions

1. Prepare in advance.

In the morning, before the day begins to unfold and certainly before it begins to unravel, anticipate that your children will occasionally do frustrating things that annoy you and get under your skin, and then prepare in advance to react with grace instead of in anger. Plan this! Think about it, know it’s coming, and then plan to respond in grace. Each day our children are going to do many things that are funny and lovely and wonderful and that bring us joy and make us laugh. But with just as much certainty, our kids are going to do things that irritate and anger us. Why does it seem to catch us unprepared so that all we’re doing is reacting?  Before the moments come, spend time praying and preparing your heart to react in grace. We don’t just want to go through parenthood reacting. We want to be proactively changing.

2. Reflect at the end of the day.

When it’s been a good, joy-filled day with your children, take a few moments to reflect upon why things went well and why you reacted in grace instead of anger. And similarly, when it’s been a difficult day and you’ve been angry and sinful, take a few minutes to reflect upon why it was a rough day. You might be surprised at the clarity of patterns and themes that emerge with this little exercise. One mark of mature, sanctified Christians is that they are often people who can identify those things which cause them to stumble, and also those things which help them soar.

3. Get enough sleep.

This doesn’t apply to everyone, but for many, many mothers that I’ve talked with, it holds true that lack of sleep leads to lack of grace in our interaction with our children. When we’re tired, we’re irritable. And when we’re irritable, we are prone to becoming quickly angered instead of patient and gracious. Granted, there are some seasons where sufficient rest is impossible. But in the many other times when staying up too late is a choice, we ought to remember that it’s the people who matter to us most who will be on the receiving end of our tired, angry responses.

4. Avoid rushing.

When we’re rushing somewhere with our children, when we’re running late, when we haven’t allotted enough time, it can very easily lead to frustrated, angry, impatient words. It doesn’t take being a parent for very long to realize that, with young children, the simplest things can take way longer than we ever thought possible. It’s just the way it is. In my own reflection on life with my little ones, a simple but helpful detail in how my heart and our family functions has been to become more organized and, along with this, to ensure that we have ample time to do whatever it is we need to do. Of course this isn’t always possible and there are many disclaimers that I’m sure come to mind. But when it’s within our power to do so, avoiding rushing is a simple yet helpful little tool to employ.

Why We Have Tremendous Hope

Parenting is such a journey, isn’t it? There are days when it seems like God’s grace pours into us and out of us into our children. There’s laughter. There’s joy. There’s good stuff happening in our home and we’re filled with hope and excitement for the days ahead. Then there are other days... Days where it seems like anger and tears have been the theme. But even during hard times, we have every reason to have tremendous hope. We're not alone. Truly, in our failures and in our joys alike, we're not doing this parenting thing alone. We live our lives beneath the shadow of His wings, and even as we parent our little ones, we’re being parented by a Father who loves us, is with us, and is helping us every step along the way.