Friday, October 24, 2014


October marks five years that Justin has been a pastor. They’ve been five wonderful years but, like every pastor will tell you, they’ve also been replete with ups and downs, joys and sorrows, encouragements and discouragements.

But more than anything, and through everything, God has been faithful.

When benchmarks arrive, it can be enjoyable to reflect on what’s been learned during the season gone by. There is so much more I could write, but here are five simple reflections after five years:

1. Ministry can be distracting, but being distracted is a choice. I know that, in part, church life these past five years has been distracting because I’ve gone through them with babies. When you have a baby in your arms and toddlers beside you on the pew, there’s always something that needs attention, whether it’s getting the raisins-you-didn’t-know-he-had out of the 2-year-old’s nose, or trying to pacify a newborn, or reminding the 4 year old not to make paper airplanes out of the bulletin.

But it’s not just the distractions from my own family. As a pastor’s wife, there are many elements of church life that I’m constantly (and often needlessly) aware of that can beckon for my attention on Sunday mornings. Perhaps I’m noticing if something didn’t go smoothly with a transition in the service, or if the mics are too loud, or who’s present and absent that day, or wondering if the first-time visitors are being welcomed. The list of both inconsequential and legitimate distractions could go on and on.

But here’s what I’ve found: my heart needs corporate worship on Sunday and I need to focus on Christ, not on all those other things. They may beckon for my attention. But I make a choice: I can either choose to focus on Jesus, or I can choose to focus on everything else.

2. All those things older pastors and their wives told us really are true. You know all those things that older pastors say? Things like, Don’t evaluate ministry, for good or bad, on a Sunday night. Or, Pastor’s wives, don’t give you husbands negative feedback about their sermon on the ride home from church…wait till the next day. Or, You’ll never please everyone in your church so don’t even try. Or, Being in ministry holds the greatest delights and also deepest sorrows you’ll ever know. The list could go on and on. As it turns out, they were right. It seems like all those older pastors and their wives just might have known what they were talking about.

3. The greatest way I can encourage my husband is to pursue Christ. This one is both simple and deep at the same time. In our five years in ministry, there is nothing that encourages Justin more than when his wife is ministered to through his preaching and shepherding and is stirred to love Christ through his leadership. And more than that, when this stirring leads to Gospel centered living.

4. A good pastor is a great blessing. Maybe this one seems obvious, but for me, one of the joys of ministry has been to see God grow and use Justin. A wife is given a unique and up-close view of her husband’s strengths and weaknesses. As I reflect, all I can do is give thanks for a man who is who he is—the Justin that our church sees on Sundays is the exact same man that the children and I see every night behind closed doors. And that man is a good man, a faithful man. He is a strong yet gentle shepherd, and I am so thankful to belong to his fold.

5. God provides. It’s who God is. He can’t not provide. And yet sometimes we doubt, don't we? In these five years we’ve seen God provide for our family and for our church in some amazing and often unexpected ways. God has been good. God has been faithful. God has provided.

I was curious what Justin would say if he reflected upon the same theme, so I ambushed him during lunch one day and asked him what things come to mind when he thinks about the first five years.

Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that these were things that came to his mind in the moment, and it’s likely that with more time to reflect or develop these ideas, perhaps his answers might be slightly different. But I love his reflections just as they are: fresh, spontaneous, and as honest as it gets.

The following five reflections are Justin’s words.

1. Anyone can make a huge difference in the life of a church. You don’t have to be someone with remarkable gifts, incredible intellect, or amazing talents. Anyone can make a difference in their church body simply by being faithful and committed--faithful to Christ, and committed to your local church. Be present. Be reliable. Show up to stuff. Encourage others. Greet visitors. The list of simple things that make a big difference go on and on. You don’t have to be a remarkable person to make a difference in church life. I’ve been amazed at how church life and culture can be influenced by ordinary people who are simply faithful and committed.   

2. Conflict isn’t Bad. Healthy, growing, renewing churches will have conflict. It’s part of life in a broken world. There will be bumps. There will be sin. But the mark of a healthy church is not the absence of these things but the presence of strong leaders who will respond biblically and graciously. A healthy church isn’t going to not have issues that need dealing with; a healthy church is going to deal biblically with those issues. In these five years I can honestly say that times of conflict, and even times of discipline, though hard in the moment, have wound up in the end strengthening our church family and bringing greater unity than we had before.

3. Preachers really do improve in the first few years. (Wife’s note: he said this with a grin.) Most young pastors are familiar with a Tim Keller quote that goes something like this: A preacher really doesn’t start preaching well until he’s preached a few hundred times. It’s true. If you’re open to seeing your flaws, if you’re reflective, if you want to become a better preacher, and if you’ve got some good people giving you feedback, it really is true that your preaching will improve dramatically after a few hundred times. Five years in and, even though there are obviously so many ways I yet want to grow, it’s so awesome to see progress.

4. There’s wonderful freedom in knowing that every church is Christ’s church. It’s so easy for church leaders to fall into the trap of thinking that their church is in their own hands. Of course we would never say that and theologically never believe that. But sometimes when the rubber meets the road in church life, it’s far too easy to carry burdens that you shouldn’t carry. In some practical ways it’s a fine line, because God has given pastors the responsibility to lead and shepherd and make decisions that will profoundly influence the direction of the local church. And yet every local church is not upheld, sustained, or grown by their pastor. I’m just the under shepherd, and I’m so thankful for that freeing truth.

5. There’s nothing more crucial to being a good pastor than simply being a good Christian. At the end of the day, I will only ever be as good a pastor as I am a Christian. Nothing will impact my flock more than my own personal passion and pursuit of Christ. I’ve seen this work itself out in practical ways again and again. I will only ever lead our congregation well when I’m passionately following Christ Himself.

(I’d been feverishly typing while Justin had talked, trying to get down all his thoughts. As we finished up, he paused and reflected upon one last thing. And his words below are sort of a perfect place to conclude.)
You know, before being a pastor myself, I had heard other pastors say things like, My church is my favorite church in the world. Or, There is no other place I’d rather be a pastor. I don’t think I’d ever doubted their sincerity, but maybe just wondered if it was overstated, or if I would feel that way about my own church one day. Well, I can say this without reservation: I love our church—I love the people in our church—and there is no other place I’d rather be.

Sunday, October 19, 2014


The Ottawa Valley is magical in the fall, and my parents farm is the perfect place to spend a quiet, thankful couple days with people you love. As always, our Thanksgiving with my parents was very short but very sweet, even though we were missing some family that couldn't make it this year. In the time that we were there, the kids squeezed in a lot of fun: bonfires, raking leaves, playing in corn fields, walking in the fields with Grandpa Ganz, playing Sorry with Nana Ganz, watching movies with Aunt Caiah, and, of course, my Mom's amazing turkey feast. As always, every detail of the weekend was looked after and prepared perfectly. Also, since Ella's birthday was around the corner, we concluded our Thanksgiving meal with a little "Princess Party" for her. 

Thank you for a wonderful Thanksgiving, Pop and Mom. 
We love you both and miss you every day. xoxo

Saturday, October 18, 2014


Ella is three. 
Hard to believe. 
Our baby and then our two year old is now a three year old!
Baby no more.  

Ella is such an amazing person.

She's sweet.
She's warm.
She loves with abandon.
She's nurturing. 
She's wildly smart.
She's insightful.
She's a risk taker.
She loves to sing. And to talk.
She loves pink.
She's bold and adventurous.
She loves her dolls. 
She loves to laugh.
She loves to make people around her laugh.

The other night after reading her some favorite bedtime stories we were lying on her bed together and I asked her, Ella, who do you love most in the whole world? She said, Well, I love my guys. I asked her who specifically were 'her guys.' Daddy, Jake, and Josh. They're my guys. 

Children often have pronunciations that are so cute that, as a parent, you don't correct them because you know before you know it they'll start pronouncing the word correctly and all you'll have left is your memory of the cuteness. There are two words for which Justin and I have just loved her mispronunciations: god and doctor. With Ella, god is gog, and doctor is gockter

And so in her several unfortunate ER visits of this past year (including one fractured foot, one piece of Lego stuck up her nose, and one head-hitting-the-bed-frame massive bump between her eyes which turned into two adorable and sad looking black eyes), we got to hear her many times over talk about how nice the gockters were. Or, when they walked into the room, "Are you my gockter?" Or when she prays in that serious, pious voice: "Dear Gog..." 

In some ways Ella is the classic baby of the family and finds herself often trying to keep up with her big brothers. Early in September right after we had moved into our new place, we found ourselves at IKEA a fair bit picking up new items for the house. Each time we'd go, I'd drop off the boys in the Play Room and Ella would stick with me and we'd shop together. There's this large plaque on the wall outside of the IKEA Play Room with a large red arrow, indicating the height requirements. Ella is yet a couple inches below that red arrow. But still, each time, she stands there stretching as tall as she can, just waiting for that day when she, too, is tall enough and can enter with her brothers. I always say, "One of these days, Ella. One of these days you're going to stand there and you'll reach the arrow and then you'll get to go in, too, little one."

During this season of regular IKEA visits, Justin asked Ella at one point what she wanted to do when she grew up. Her answer: "When I grow up I want to be big enough to go in the Play Room at IKEA." When you're a two year old, I guess those seem like big, unreachable dreams. 

"Paint nails!" Ella loves nail polish and having me or her Aunt Caiah paint her nails. But she's found her own creative way of referring to this process. She says, "Can I get my paint nails done now?" Or, "Daddy, look! Do you love my red paint nails?" For some reason Justin and I both just love how she's come to refer to this. Paint nails.

Ella is very fortunate to have an Aunt Caiah who has more variety and colors of nail polish than any person I've met. Recently when we were at my sister's apartment, Caiah dumped a bag of nail polish on the floor and let Ella choose a color and then proceeded to give Ella a purse full of nail polish. (Er... thanks, Caiah...) Ella was overwhelmed with delight. It was probably one of the best mornings of her life. In many ways, Ella has a personality very similar to her Aunt Caiah, and I often find myself calling Caiah, Ella, or Ella, Caiah. 

Ella is incredibly efficient and helpful. When she makes a mess, she cleans it up. When she spills something, she grabs a towel and gets to work. It's almost intuitive for her to be responsible with her own messes, or something. In the earlier days of potty training, if she had an accident somewhere, she'd find a towel to clean things up, then she'd change her own clothes, throwing the dirty ones in the hamper and getting dressed in something clean. Usually all this without even telling me. (This has taken me somewhat by surprise because, with her two older brothers, they would barely even tell me if they had an accident and often just keep on playing in their wet clothes, let alone clean it up and change themselves. Just different personalities.) Even this morning as Ella unwrapped her presents, Justin and I were smiling watching her meticulously throw out the wrapping paper after she tore it off the gift. In this respect, she is definitely her father's daughter!

In addition to being responsible with her messes, she also likes to pack her own supply bags when we leave the house. A while back Ella and I were getting ready to leave for some errands and she had two purses over her arm. I asked her what was in them and this was her response: "I packed wet wipes in case I get filthy and undies in case I have an accident and a banana in case I get hungry."

Dear Ella,
We love you so much, little one. 
You bring light and laughter and love wherever you go. 
You are a gift from God and we give Him thanks for making you. 
Even though I'm sad, in some ways, to say goodbye to my two year old, 
I can't wait to see how you grow and change in this year to come.
On this, your birthday, we pray that God would bless you and keep you all the days of your life. 
We love you, Ella Grace Galotti. 
Happy Birthday, sweetheart! xoxo