He fills the longing soul with good things. Ps. 107:9



How You Live

I wiped the tears at the end of my watching to find my children dancing to the music. So of course, I "turned it up loud" again and joined the dance.

It had been nagging at me...it was a gorgeous day - perfect for sledding - and even at the end of February we had yet to go. But I had a lot to do and really didn't feel like it. After watching this video and looking outside again, I postponed my Saturday cleaning, put on a hundred snowsuits and mittens and boots and scarves and we had one of the most wonderful sledding days I ever remember. We came home, shed our snowage, drank hot chocolate, and had naps.

I tucked away some very precious and happy memories - And my house still got cleaned.


A Fine-Tuned Life

I sit here mesmerized, baby on lap, watching Heifetz play a Bach Chaconne.

What a combination – the power of Bach played by an all-time master. The idea pressing itself into my mind as I listen… is control.

Every note – every nuance – is perfectly balanced. The double stops punctuate, the spicatto bowing passages are crisp, brilliant and effortless. Yet the melody is the most powerful – always rising and soaring to the top in spite of the technical gymnastics being articulated.

Yet his music is marked with a certain wild abandon – a heart and soul that elevates the Chaconne above cold perfection to the warm Divine.

There is no doubt in my mind that this music is eternally linked to the heart of my Abba.

This single performance that fills me with awe on a snowy Thursday morning has required almost unspeakable dedication. A lifetime of days. Hours of commitment and practice as the body posture, hand formation, finger precision, bow weight are perfected and perfected again. The music has become so much a part of him that he needs not pause as the cameraman calls out “take one.” He begins with only the imperceptible prep breath that comes when the music has become part of your internal rhythm.

It is one thing to listen to such beauty and power and precision. Yet how unspeakably more it is to feel it in your fingers – the notes pouring out from muscle memory earned by the tedious aching hours. The bliss of the spicatto as it bounces in perfect balance.

There were days that I chaffed under the relentless pull of the music. The dedication required seemed too hard a task master – requiring too much. I wished to waller in the undisciplined freedom around me. But the pull of commitment and investment are powerful, and the practice room became my friend.

I remember, too, the days when I chaffed spiritually. Feeling frustrated that the walk, the dedication, seemed so difficult to master. Wishing that it would be easier. Wanting so desperately to hold perfection. But muscle memory only comes from practice.

Sometimes, in this walk, the commitment and investment keep us going. We press toward the goal that seems unattainable. This holiness – becoming like Christ – is surely farther out of our reach than the Bach Chaccone is to my pre-twinkling 3-year old right now. Were it not for grace.

The discipline of the holy life – discipline in every area – the “coming under” of ourselves to a Higher Power – is an absolutely necessary element. This, and only this, allow us to be fine-tuned to the place where we might enjoy the thrill of a life that sings with a holy brilliance.

Why is it that youth so often whispers to us that if we were truly committed enough, in love enough with Christ, that we would no longer need the discipline of holy living? Have we forgotten that the daily trying of our faith bringeth forth patience…spiritual muscle?

On this instrument, wild abandon alone will not get you far. My one-year-old has wild abandon. Minus the commitment. Minus the discipline, the sounds coming from his cardboard violin are less than holy, indeed.

But passionate worship, combined with the disciplined life, lets us experience the music that soars above the mundane. Having put in the daily hours of refinement, we gain “muscle memory” – the place where we no longer have to think about and analyze every movement. And the Holy Love that draws us passionately paints and colors and brings every note alive. And oh! What joyous freedom – to let His music move our practiced fingers.

Is this the point of arrival? The ultimate experience of holiness? Oh no, what a small God that would be!

I remember one – only one violin recital in 26 years of playing - when I finished feeling like I had played masterfully...almost. That’s the nature of this instrument. It is impossible to outgrow.

The more we learn - the more finely tuned our hearing becomes - the more we are aware of our need. And we practice on, that His music may sing through us more beautifully.

Dear Abba, would you fine-tune my life? Would You discipline my fingers, that their clumsiness will not get in the way of your song? Would you train my hearing, that it may discern what is truly beautiful? Would you bring me once again to the place of practice, that I may relish the freedom of being completely under your control? I worship you for your Music. I am in awe that you let me in.

'Twas the night before Valentines Day....

And all through the house
Everyone is cozily sleeping
Except for the frazzled, exhausted mother
Who can't figure out why she's still up at this hour of the night
And why for GOODNESS sake she's blogging instead of crashing into bed.
Poor, pathetic brain-dead loser that she is.

Valentines ready? check
(Frugal hint: Wait until 10:30 the night before Valentines day to do your shopping and you'll save a whopping 20% at CVS!)

Cookies for school party ready? CHECK
(Cleverly arranged and disguised on a red styrofoam plate so that no one will know I purchased them. Tonight. On clearance. At CVS.)

Valentines Mailbox complete? CHECK!
(David couldn't even tell it was supposed to be a cake. So he suggested the candles and marshmallows.) It was definately a very messy, very family endeavor. Even the dogs got involved. At which point my already grouchy mood turned somewhat violent.
During family storytime and prayer right after the mailbox escapade:

Mommy: "Sorry guys, I got a little grouchy tonight"
Kayla: "It's okay, mommy - even if you did act like a grouchy old cat. But it's okay, mommy - It's really okay!"
David: laughing hysterically (who up to this point has been studying at his desk as if we did not exist)

Well...what do you expect? I came home tired from prayer meeting and my procrastination hit me full-force in the face. I offered Kayla to make the mailbox for her myself during the night and SURPRISE her in the morning! Nothing doing. So we pulled out the craft box and every piece of tissue paper and ribbon in the entire house. Marshmallows were flying everywhere. It looked like Valentines Day its very self had exploded in our kitchen. A blur of tissue paper and ribbons and puppies. The two younger ones on top of the table, blissfully arranging marshmallows. And Karissa screaming at top of her lungs in order to be paid attention to...."Mommy, can we just write "HAPPY NEW YEAR on there?" Huh, mommy? Please? Can we write Happy New Year now? Just once on the cake? Mommy? Please? Can we write it now?"

To which her loving mother responded lovingly:


Ahh...can't you feel the love in the air?

Oh yeah....one more thing:

Bank deposit for almost 1,000 dollars? LOST! AGHHHHHHHH!
I was not being careless. I was being purposeful and placed the signed checks and completed deposit slip into my pretty pink bag and made my way to the freezing minivan for a late night errands excursion. Dear Lord, PLEASE let it be resting under a marshmallow bag and not blowing away in the snowy outside!

Oh! So that's why I'm not sleeping.....

I guess I'll have to wait until tomorrow to figure out some ways to make V-Day special and meaningful for this pack of rugrats.

It did turn out pretty cute, after all, didn't it? Even if it doesn't look like a cake.

This just in: Exciting update on the lost bank deposit....I decided to make one last trip out into the snow before I bade the day a shaky farewell. I remembered that the van was parked farther back than I had looked before - and there it was in the sparkling snow!! The precious envelope. Slightly water-logged but still intact. Praise God from Whom all blessings flow. He is merciful to those who are simple of mind....

Just didn't want you to stay up worrying.

Psalm 4:8a I will lie down and sleep in peace....

Living With a Three-Year Old

I needed this laugh so much today after work....There are still tears in my eyes. Maybe because I also live with a verbal 3-year-old! When I got home today our babysitter told me some hilarious story about Karissa, the potty, her ballerina outfit and a mirror. Wouldn't trade that crazy kid for a million dollars. Well, maybe just for a day....

Anyway, here's the laugh my friend Andrea sent me:

Three-year-old tells all from his mother's restroom stall.
By Shannon Popkin

My little guy, Cade, is quite a talker. He loves to communicate and does it quite well. He talks to people constantly, whether we're in the library, the grocery store or at a drive-thru window. People often comment on how clearly he speaks for a just-turned-3-year-old. And you never have to ask him to turn up the volume. It's always fully cranked.

There've been several embarrassing times that I've wished the meaning of his words would have been masked by a not-so-audible voice, but never have I wished this more than last week at Costco. Halfway, through our shopping trip, nature called, so I took Cade with me into the restroom. If you'd been one of the ladies in the restroom that evening, this is what you would have heard coming from the second to the last stall:

'Mommy, are you gonna go potty?
Oh! Why are you putting toiwet paper on the potty, Mommy?
Oh! You gonna sit down on da toiwet paper now?
Mommy, what are you doing?
Mommy, are you gonna go stinkies on the potty?'

At this point I started mentally counting how many women had been in the bathroom when I walked in. Several stalls were full ... 4? 5? Maybe wecould wait until they all left before I had to make my debut out of this stall and reveal my identity.

Cade continued: 'Mommy, you ARE going stinkies aren't you?
Oh, dats a good girl, Mommy!
Are you gonna get some candy for going stinkies on the potty?
Let me see doze stinkies, Mommy!
Oh ... Mommy! I'm trying to see In dere.
Oh! I see dem.
Dat is a very good girl, Mommy. You are gonna get some candy!'

I heard a few faint chuckles coming from the stalls on either side of me.Where is a screaming newborn when you need her? Good grief. This was really getting embarrassing. I was definitely waiting a long time before exiting.

Trying to divert him, I said, 'Why don't you look in Mommy's purse and see if you can find some candy. We'll both have some!''

No, I'm trying to see doze more stinkies.
Oh! Mommy!'He started to gag at this point.

'Uh - oh, Mommy. I fink I'm gonna frow up.
Mommy, doze stinkies are making me frow up!! Dat is so gross!!

'As the gags became louder, so did the chuckles outside my stall. I quickly flushed the toilet in hopes of changing the subject. I began to reason with myself: OK. There are four other toilets. If I count four flushes, I can be reasonably assured that those who overheard this embarrassing monologue will be long gone.

'Mommy! Would you get off the potty, now? I want you to be done going stinkies!
Get up! Get up!' He grunted as he tried to pull me off.

Now I could hear full-blownlaughter. I bent down to count the feet outside my door.

'Oh, are you wooking under dere, Mommy?
You wooking under da door? What were you wooking at?
Mommy? You wooking at the wady's feet?'

More laughter. I stood inside the locked door and tried to assess the situation.

'Mommy, it's time to wash our hands, now.
We have to go out now, Mommy.'

He started pounding on the door.
'Mommy, don't you want to wash your hands?
I want to go out!!'

I saw that my 'wait 'em out' plan was unraveling. I sheepishly opened the door, and found standing outside my stall, twenty to thirty ladies crowded around the stall, all smiling and starting to applaud.

My first thought was complete embarrassment, then I thought, 'Where'sthe fine print on the 'motherhood contract' where I signed away everybit of my dignity and privacy?'

But as my little boy gave me a big, cheeky grin while he rubbed bubbly soap between his chubby little hands, I thought, I'd sign it all away again, just to be known as Mommy to this little fellow.

(Shannon Popkin is a freelance writer and mother of three. She lives with her family in Grand Rapids , Michigan , where she no longer uses public restrooms.)

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