Thursday, February 28, 2013

To Be Heard

Why are babies so wonderful?
They don't say a word until they're many months of age.
Maybe that's why we love them so much.
This picture shows Malachi, captive audience to Isaac's guitar playing.

In the last few weeks I've had opportunities to listen to my friends.
I figure I'm two for three.
Three times, somebody I love poured out her heart.
Twice, I heard her as she needed to be heard.
The other time, I jumped in with stories of my own, and advice.
I should know better by now.

When I joined the Tuesday morning Bible Study at my church last year,
I was dismayed to find that we weren't doing a traditional study.
Instead, we were going through an enormous book called "Listen to my Life."
I thought it would be terrible, that I would get pulled into self-pity.
I dreaded introspection.
It had been a rough seven years, and I wanted to get my mind off of my problems.

Right off the bat, the book started with listening guidelines.
These were similar to the ones that Open Door encourages every time small groups meet.
But they were so complete, so revelatory,
that I began to relax.
Maybe this morning group wouldn't be a waste of time.

And it turned out I was desperate to be heard.
In the seven years that my family had just endured,
many people had offered advice, given pep talks, interrupted,
and often failed to offer the space needed for me to finish what I was saying.

This little group of women listened.
And I listened to them.
We were timed, so the listening happened in perfect silence and was fairly distributed.

Last week, after my failure to listen to my friend, I revisited that giant book.


Here's what I learned (again): (The following is excerpted from the book by Towner and Swing)

Invite the Holy Spirit to interact with you as you listen to one another.

Give the speaker focused attention. A lack of focused attention pushes the person toward a self-consciousness that depends upon the approval of others.

Offer unconditional acceptance. This is a form of giving grace. God already knows everything the person is saying. If you find yourself judging, allow God to turn that into wonder.

No fixing, advising, or rescuing allowed. Some small groups think that offering advice is a helpful form of fellowship. Attempts to fix a person pushes their soul into hiding and leaves them feeling less capable of handling life. People just want to be heard. Allow the person to feel sadness or pain. Withhold the urge to rescue someone from their emotions.

Be comfortable with silence. It's human nature to fill silence with comments or questions. Silence allows the speaker time to listen to herself, decide what to say next, and allows the Holy Spirit space to work. Silence can usher in deeper honesty and openness to learning. It can be uncomfortable. Let the speaker know you are listening with your eyes.

"Listening this way is an act of submission as we consciously put the needs of another above our own for a time. We do not listen for our own benefit, entertainment or understanding." (Towner and Swing, Listen to my Life)

So there you have it.

I needed this reminder.

Thanks for listening.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Mustangs in the Snow

Yesterday we went to Snake River Farm, Tom and Gail's place north of the Cities.
The land looked lovely, wearing fresh snow and crowned with brilliant blue skies.
Tom told us that his horses are mostly mustangs. He buys them out west, where thousands are penned by the government. His horses are the lucky ones.

Bill the Buffalo with some of the baby buffalo.

Blue on the left, Hawk on the right, between sled rides.

We took a quick turn by the old schoolhouse.
The day was too bright to take good pictures.

Tom had two teams alternating so they wouldn't wear out.

Thank you for the lovely sled ride, gentlemen.

"Most are mustangs.
In this snow, the younger ones play.
they shake their manes, run, and kick up snow just for joy.
Even in this snow, they sense spring."
(Tom Barthel, owner, Snake River Farm)

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Price of Beauty

No, not that kind of beauty.
Here is my dining room.
It looks like this pretty much all the time now.
My daughter makes things for her etsy shop, and now my husband has joined the fray, starting with holsters.
I had no idea leather was malleable when soaked in water.

A famous decorator says,
"Clean your house, people. It costs nothing."

 I don't care how pretty it is.  A house looks awful when it's a mess.

But on the other hand,
I love my bracelets.
And it took a bit of chaos
to create these uniquely beautiful objects.

(Leather bracelet with bank vault number by Sona Maidin.
Bead bracelet made by me).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


Look at that face. He's completely secure.

No one has told him that his parents are kinda old.

He has no fear of anything.

All is well in his little world.

Makes me think of that verse, "...underneath are the everlasting arms."

I hunted it down, in Deuteronomy of all places, at the end of Moses's blessing over the tribes of Israel.

"There is no one like the God of Jeshurun,
who rides on the heavens to help you.
and on the clouds in his majesty.
The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.
He will drive out your enemy before you,
saying, 'Destroy him!'
So Israel will live in safety alone;
Jacob's spring is secure
in a land of grain and new wine,
where the heavens drop dew.
Blessed are you, Oh Israel!
Who is like you, a people saved by the LORD?
He is your shield and helper,
and your glorious sword.
Your enemies will cower before you,and you will trample down their high places."

Deut. 33: 26-29

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Grandma's Cards

Plenty of people I know are going to be a little fragile, come Thursday.
 It's a holiday fraught with pressure.
When I was first married - okay, honestly, for about the first ten years of marriage -
I was a sad sack on Valentine's Day.
I wanted more romance, more attention, more evidence that I was beloved.
And here he was, working to the end of his limit to support us all.
So now I'm more relaxed.
I still love a handmade card.
A little attention.
Maybe fresh tulips from Trader Joe's.

But what I think of most, when Valentine's Day approaches,
are the cards from my Grandma Ericson.
She was rather famous for them.
Her kitchen table was the repository for others' cards.
She recycled them into new missives.
Her beautiful handwriting graced the card and envelope,
and they appeared in our mailbox every birthday and holiday.
Thank goodness, I saved almost all of them.

Seeing her handwriting now,
I feel as if she's still here.
Still just a morning's drive away.

Here she is with my daughters, when the baby was two months old.
She would hold my babies for hours.

Grandpa died when I was four months pregnant with Isaac.
So when I think of Grandma and her love poured out on us,
she did all that as a widow.
The exact same years that I was complaining,
she was busy showing how much she loved us.

When Grandma died, five years ago,
I never thought we'd be having another baby.

I wish she could see this little guy.
I wish she was here to hold him, tell him old family stories,
and most of all, to pray for him.

She got such a kick out of his big brothers.
Isaac was 15 months here, and Caleb 6 weeks.
Once, when she had visited them, she wrote my parents,
"There's grist for the airform mill because I've seen the bunnies!"
(Airforms: the thin blue international letters that she and my other Grandma sent by the hundred).
 My folks were 3000 miles away and were starved for stories.

 Eyes wide open.
That's what we need this Valentine's Day.
Just to give the gifts that matter, that last, that feed the hungry heart.
I know this is a day that can feel like salt in a wound.

Maybe people should turn off the tv, look away from Pinterest,
and keep it very simple.

That's what my Grandma did.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Right Name

Before I hopped on the computer to write this,
I glanced through our old wedding album to find a similar photo to the one above.
I wanted one with our young, un-worn hands.
The pictures made me wistful.
Thankful, of course.
We've been married almost 25 years, and that is something.
I'll write about that another time.

The above photo shows our new cuffs from Julia.
Mine has the kids' names.
Five names, symbolizing the people we love most in this world,
names full of hope and beauty.

This picture shows my husband's wrist. 
He's not known for accessorizing. 
Julia (our oldest daughter) stamped it with the five kids' name meanings.  

Names are important to me.
That is a massive understatement.
A name is the most lasting gift to our child.
It sums up our taste, our beliefs, our dreams for him or her.    
I never enjoyed being pregnant. The whole time was a long, miserable wait.
Waiting made bearable by the promise of a fresh new baby,
and the enormous privilege of naming.  

If I was in charge of naming babies,
you'd see a pattern.  Lots of names from the Bible, from literature, from history.
Names from beloved family members.
Nothing made-up.
I like real names.

For our family, I avoided names that ended in the "y" sound,
since our last name is Murphy.
I'm also glad that we have unique initials for each of our kids.
It's hard enough to call them to the dinner table
without tripping over the same starting letter.
But I know a lot of families choose one initial on purpose.

If I did have a child with a "y" ending, I'd choose an "a" or consonant ending for the next kid.
When I say all my kids' names, I want them to flow like poetry.
Here's another tip: avoid a glottal stop within the name.
Going from first name to middle should flow smoothly,
not interrupt (for example, Ainsley Hope is better than Ainsley Eve).     
There are so many names I love but didn't use.
Clara. Amelie. Elizabeth. Jesse. Charlotte. Luke. Levi.
Mercy. Ezra. Elias. Silas. Sadie. Bridgette. Ivy. Elsa. Lila. Lachlan.
I could have really gone nuts with the Irish names.   

When I was first pregnant with Malachi, I was sure I was having a girl.
I had the name all ready, and Nate had agreed to it.
She would have been Selah Joy Elizabeth.
Oh what a name!
I am hoping someone uses it someday.
But I am so delighted with my wonderfully-made baby boy,
and so thankful that my husband also loved the name
Malachi Jude.
Biblical, and a middle name (like all the kids') that starts with "J."
We loved the meaning.
"My messenger of praise".
We have a nickname all ready for him.
a pastor we know (a pastor!) asked,
"But what are you going to call him?"
Mick. The nickname will be Mick.
It sounds Irish and it happens to be the name of a close friend.
So far we haven't trotted it out.
But if we hear anyone trying to call him "Mal" or "Mally," rest assured, you'll hear it.      

(An excerpt from the book of Malachi is on my sidebar, and my daughter who made our cuffs also sells her wares on Etsy at