Family: It’s a Big Word

“Family” is the concept that looms largest in my personal horizon. I only realized it in terms of articulating it to myself in 2016. So, this is fairly new: to compose a complete view of why this idea of “family” is so central to my entire life.

I began to understand how it impacts so many of us, although in varying ways and  degrees.

Why Me, and Not You?

This is the place where I began to really think, rather than simply struggle.

First, I’m a sixty- something and have lived most of my allotted years. When it comes to family, I went big- I had ten children… and endured long – stayed married for 43 years as a stay-at-home-mom.

It is not an exaggeration to say that I have struggled in one way or another all that time. I never seemed to have really settled within myself. One perennial struggle was to have a cohesive family unit- when what I actually was part of was more like a “herding cats” scenario.

The Light of Dawn

This past year, as I found myself within that familiar cycle of trying to coordinate family get-togethers while everyone else was less than enthusiastic about making plans, I asked myself “Why?”

Why is it so vital to me that we gather together and build relationship, and the others (father and children) seem so indifferent, even resistant? It used to be couched in a “what is wrong with me?”/ “what is wrong with them?” emotional whirlpool, but a different perspective dawned on me.

What is different between us?

That I find the need central, while for them it is peripheral to the rest of their concerns. What explains this conflict of  priorities?

  • Because I am a woman, and a mom? No, that doesn’t explain it, others aren’t like this.
  • Because I made my life choices in that direction? No, it was the impetus, not the outcome.
  • Because I came from a broken home? Yes, that begins to explain it.

Not only did I come from a broken home, but I had no real place in my family of origin. I was a rejected black sheep. The reason is not important, but the effect was the key influence of my life. It colored everything.

My husband came from an intact family, as did my children. I believe they see that part of their life, being in a family unit, as a matter of course. It is settled for them.

My great struggle is seeing that such things aren’t settled by default, but must be grown and cultivated. I don’t apologize or dismiss the power of that insight. I do have one great flaw, however… what does such a family look like? How does it form, especially when given such poor soil?

I value family so greatly, because mine was lacking. I wanted to create family in my life.

I Don’t Have Answers, But I Get Inklings

In these big concept struggles of life, I move further from having the answers (as in “one size fits all”), but I get bigger inklings. And those help me. They create more peace and contentment, and make me much easier to get along with as they disconnect my need to fix the world from daily interactions with the people important to me.

10 Great Inklings

  1. We all have needs for acceptance and love, and it isn’t all about me.
  2. Keep trying to connect, and try to make the majority of connections loving, supportive, pleasant.
  3. Leave the past behind. Get to know the person that they are, now.
  4. Your needs, insights, and contributions are important, so are theirs. Blend, make recipes, value all the ingredients. Know when to leave certain things out of the mix.
  5. Be there. Be present. Be hospitable. Invite. Engage. Allow. Make clear boundaries.
  6. Choose to keep trying as long as fruit is possible. Know when to cut down the tree. This comes from Jesus’s parable of the fig tree. To pour yourself out into areas of life that don’t produce means that less is given to those that will. Be productive.
  7. Glean wisdom, but don’t compare.
  8. Stop the negativity habits; Encourage positive interactions, speech, attitude, gratefulness, and all things edifying.
  9. While oversight may be in your hands, control is not.
  10. You cannot change others, but you can change yourself. That may be the catalyst for circumstances or for others, but it is growth in your own life. It will result in true satisfaction.

My Contribution: A Sense that Family is Important

This lack that became driving force, struggle that became recognition, became what I contribute to the world. I gave it through defiance and by going to war against the norms of my generation. As a SAHM, with homeschooling, home birthing, attempts at homesteading, and having a big family on one (sometimes below average) income.

I don’t contribute the means or the goal, but the concept that a family has intrinsic value for everyone, in some way. That value is not dictated by method, numbers, or even culture.

If the value is dictated by anything, it would be a true understanding of love.

Regrets and the Future

To dwell on regrets is not useful or conducive to change. It only mires one in the past with a distorted filter. We have today, and that forms our future life… with family relationships or otherwise.

People give up on family. Too soon and too often, when it is the messy stuff of living that creates the full spectrum of being.

I believe this is why God has worded relationship with Himself in terms of family. There are many ways we relate to each other, but the closer we are the more we see it in familial connections.

Someone is a sister or mother to us, a father or brother, and a “significant other” is husband or wife. We can’t divorce ourselves from our need to belong. It remains, struggling and gasping for expression.

I want that expression to be a healthy one that promotes growth in each individual. I outlined what that means to me.

…So far…

 

 

 

Can Makeovers Go More Than Skin Deep?

I had an experience in the past year that propelled me out of my comfort zone, and has me thinking about relationships, acceptance, and yet again – the way society sets us up.

Here is me: I stay at home, and have, for the past… oh, almost forty years that I’ve been married and had kids.

You might call me insulated…. parochial… any number of limiting adjectives; because that is how people tend to categorize and pigeon-hole each other. It is also a function of how our brains manage to work with limited information and infinite unknowns.

Increasingly over the past decade the mold has broken and I’ve been traveling, so far to Hungary, Denmark, Brazil, and across the States on a roadtrip west. I had moved into a type of intellectual travel, too, with the internet, forums, and blogging, but in 2012 I ended up briefly visiting the reality TV world.

That was stretching me beyond a number of comfort levels, into a world that is truly alien for me.

That experience can be seen in the brief scenes in the latest episode of Making Mr. Right.

When you know the premise of this dating show, immediately some of the most obvious questions come up, like “Could/Should people try to makeover their mates?” (Potential or otherwise) And the equally obvious questions about whether people have soul mates, or is “finding the right person” the key to happiness? Those last questions, oddly enough, revolve around the idea that we don’t “make” our happiness or the object of it, but that people are somehow static and finding the “right match” is the important part.

How much of our happiness resides in the power of another person, how much within our own making?

Actually there are all sorts of questions that swirl around in our culture, along with some of the preconceptions attached to them.

Which is what makes the idea of creating a dating show one that promises interest and entertainment for viewers.

And either way, we are led to objectify our significant others in ways that cause us to forget they are people who change and are influenced, and who have the power to make their own choices, to mold their own world, and to turn the tables on us! We might want to inject some humility, respectfulness, and freedom into this process.

Makeovers

Makeovers are such a big part of American myth. American girls are practically raised on that idea, from magazine articles to whole books to the beauty industry to the business world. If we just get the look right, or make the superficial changes, we unlock approval and success, and get to have our dreams come true.

Fortunes are made on such beliefs.

Lies I Was Told

Kind of like the “Working Girl” movie with Melanie Griffith, made in the 80’s when the importance of image reinvented itself and became the top priority for our society. Makes the old adage “can’t tell a book by its cover” meaningless.

This idea has too many remakes to count, just take a look at a list of this year’s movies, TV shows, music videos, and other pop culture venues… I bet you can find more than a few that follow the pattern and sell the concept.

It is all about the image, the branding, the packaging. We just have to reinvent, and we will get what we want.

And it works. Glitz and glitter works in the short run.

In all this, some of the outdated deceptions reemerge.

Within those beloved makeovers, I wonder, can the changes go more than skin deep, can we really resolve the way we interact with people in our lives by changing the details and the surface conditions of our lives?

My Bias

Let’s go back to ideas of changing our world, our society. Does a little Newspeak work on the macro scale? Is it working on the smaller scale of our jobs, relationships, and approval ratings of the people around us? Or more importantly for the questions brought out by Making Mr. Right, can we find and create our perfect life? Or a perfect mate, Or a perfect “other”? We certainly spend a lot of time trying.

Things I Am Convinced Of

Realities that I woke up to …along the way.

  • Mass movements, politics, and propaganda do not truly change the world, only temporarily rearrange the status quo. I learned this from my participation in the Moratorium Movement during the Vietnam war era.
  • You don’t mold or change your children. You find out who they are and encourage and direct their development. And the parenting is not even the lion-share of that. Many influences, many choices, many circumstances go into the formation of who a person is and becomes.
  • You can control very little, of anything. Your job in life is not about “control”
  • You don’t change other people, because you can’t. And vice versa

So what do makeovers accomplish, really? For all our love affair with the idea, does it change anything? Surprisingly I do think that makeovers produce some changes, just not the ones we expect.

We think of the makeover as changing the outward appearance. Sometimes that is a reflection of what inward changes have already taken place, and improves the way others perceive us. We are not islands, and the acceptance, approval, and support of others is vital. The makeover can certainly be a type of catalyst.

A makeover can align the clues we give to society of who we are with who we actually are. We can more clearly represent ourselves by adding the objectivity of the others helping us with a makeover (or those we model ourselves after). Perhaps, dispelling the false messages we accepted from others about who we are. We don’t always know ourselves as well as we believe we do.

It can also connect us better with what others need. A makeover in etiquette, in how we express thoughts and opinions, in listening skills or emotional intelligence. This is gaining a toolset in relationships.

But changing the core of a person, their struggles with life, or personal direction? Those are the ways we misuse the makeover, and the end of such manipulations is going to end in conflict and disappointment.

What Can A TV Reality Show Tell Us?

I love Francis Schaeffer, and his thought. One of the things that I picked up from reading his books is to look at the culture, especially its art and expression, to find out truths about who we are as a society. Beyond the shallow judgements of like or unlike, or slots of good or evil, what do our ideas of marriage, family, gender, man and woman, parent and child, divorce, dating tell us about our larger society and its direction? What kind of blind spots do we have, and what will give us insight and a pathway to follow on this convoluted road of life?

A few hypotheses from my perspective

I think we still believe we can control more than we have the ability to control. Maybe as a society, that belief is more underlined and accepted than ever.

We see things through the filter of our hopes, and tend to edit out even obvious barriers. We believe romantic love conquers all obstacles. Romantic love is pretty wimpy, and that isn’t the type of love that faces and overcomes real challenges. Although it has a powerful kick as a firestarter to desire.

Our ideas of divorce are sacred cows roaming our streets and leaving us starving for strong relational bonds.

We laugh at how silly someone else may be while remaining blind to our own foibles.

Humanity is humanity and no amount of makeover changes that.

What Do I think Of All This?

There was a time I wouldn’t watch reality TV. Then I started watching the occasional show. I never ever imagined being on one, even for a brief appearance. I am not really TV material, to say the least. But it was a great experience and I’m glad to have had the chance to connect with people in a whole new way, including with my son. If you look closely at my body language in some of the glimpses, I feel protective of my children, even one who is fully grown… and that is what I see in many moms. We want the best for our children and makeover or no makeover, we desire that they be loved, and learn to love. We want our stories to have happy endings, or at least make heroic efforts toward that end.

I learned that we continue to see new perspectives of the world through our children, just as when they were little.

I wish I had spent less time trying to be a makeover artist with my children, and more time just being with them and finding out who they were.

Finding out who someone actually is, and helping to be the best representative of who that is… I think that is the important lesson, the valuable takeaway from this experience. Get that from a TV show and your time watching was well spent.

masked
Photo credit: clarita

On Parenting

Not having blogged here seriously for a long time, I am not going to apologize for that now. You may find some of the reasons if you read between the lines- or maybe not.

warning: this may turn into a long post. it will certainly go deeper than I have on this blog for a long time. you may not want to read what I have to say. don’t say I didn’t warn you

How did I find myself inspired to write here today? On this topic? I visited the blog of a long time blogger who has become a new mother. She said this:

Looking after a newborn baby is really, really hard. It’s the hardest job I’ve ever done. It’s mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting, and it’s relentless. People keep telling me that it gets better or easier. I hope so. I’m pooped. ~Meg Pickard

When I read that, I remembered back …way back to my first introduction to motherhood, and yes, that is very much a description of how I felt at the time. I don’t know if there was a generation more unprepared for parenting than mine- at least among those who were like me.

Why do I think that?

  • We had jumped from ‘Leave It To Beaver’ and ‘Father Knows Best’ to ‘The Brady Bunch’ and ‘All In The Family’
  • Smart Girls prepared for careers, not families; and Supermom wasn’t going to show up until much later.
  • We had come from smaller families, and didn’t help raise siblings, and our moms and dads were all getting divorced. At least in my circles. Elsewhere in America, too, if the statistics tell the story.

How did this play out for women like me? We were sorely under-prepared for taking care of babies. We were socked with that relentless exhaustion and tried to play catch up with learning how to change diapers, adjust to feeding schedules, and generally learn parenting and household skills on the fly.

Humans are survivors- and women like me and our babies survived. From our survival lessons came the supermom syndrome. Which, for me, translated into a frenzy of trying to make everything “work”. And if you were like me you could make everything look pretty good…. on the outside. A house of cards, if you will.

This is getting ominous sounding, don’t you think? Well, in some ways it was, but in others- there were good times, there were some things I would do again, but the overall tone of life? No. Perfection makes a hard taskmaster, and I would trade that for making “Nurture” the keynote of our family. As it was, the keynote was more of “Accomplishment” as framed by my environment.

The reason I would change that focus and tone might be found in the name of a category I have on this blog, one that I haven’t yet found heart enough to fill up, but perhaps this post will be filed there,”Broken Heart Devotionals”.

Because another hard truth not told to new parents is the fact that not only can you fall deeply in love with your babies, but that they can grow up and break your heart. Not all of them, not inevitably, but it is one of the possibilities. And a parent needs to recognize that. It could change our focus and remove some of the deception that seems to infect every generation in some way or another.

I’m not going to get all sappy here, and I am certainly not going to imply that this is the inevitable outcome. Perhaps for some it isn’t in the cards, not even as a possible condition, I don’t know. I do know that when such heartbreak hits, it can come as a complete surprise… the same arrival of surprise that the exhaustion brought to an unprepared, naive mother in those first few months. With the same impact to your psyche, and your sense of what life should be.

Do not mistake facing reality for regret. There is no regret in the wonderful people that came into my world. I am happy for each individual child being a part of my world and the world at large. There is only sadness that I didn’t understand that nurture and tenderness, taking time for small moments, and living the love I felt for those people was more important than anything.

Anything.

And if I were to sum up my advice, thoughts, and stories on parenting in one thing it would be be that last paragraph and its emphatic underline.

But I have more to say. Just don’t let go of that one nugget of truth, which is the only real piece of advice I wish to pass on.

Sifting Through The Sand Of Motherhood

Sand, because motherhood will both polish you and wear you down. It will get in your shoes, but it is also lots of fun to play with. In the right conditions it will focus you on the truly important things of life, even if a little late.

To go back to that mother’s observations which I began with:

It’s also really boring much of the time. No-one tells you this. In fact, I think it’s probably frowned on to say it. But if you’re used to being surrounded by agile minds conducting fascinating thought-experiments and verbally jousting at work every day, looking after a baby gets pretty tedious rather quickly, especially when they’re too young to play or engage much with their surroundings. There’s something about the relentless monotony of routine (is it feeding time again? So soon? I could have sworn we just fed a few minutes ago…), and the fact that your brain has been sucked out of your ears by exhaustion, and the need to be constantly entertaining or on the move. It’s knackering.

I see some things have not changed much from my generation. I think we gave that attitude to the next generation as something of a legacy. Perhaps it was the gleam in the eye of our divorced mothers, and we inherited it ourselves? It said, “Smart girls are bored by the dailiness of the life of Motherhood”. Not that this was the essential point of Pickard’s post- it wasn’t. I simply plucked it out as saying what I, and many like me, felt- to the letter. Or thought we felt because we were supposed to feel that way as modern, hip, thinking women. and whether you think a certain way, or think you ought to and subscribe to it- it boils down to the same thing.Many of us Baby Boomer mothers struggled with it in one way or another.

I think it is ‘Supermom’ residue, personally. which is the opposite of “Earth Mother” persona. E.M.’s have to live in this society,too, so I don’t think they get off scot-free. They are, however, more apt to take time for their mothering, as part of their identity.

It’s Not All About Mothers

Mothers are not all there is to the forming of a child’s life, and psyche. But I do think, that like fathers in their way, mothers of my generation went sort of AWOL. And we got mixed up about what makes a good mother. We got too much into the debate over working and not enough into the conversation of what loving a child looks like.

And even if mothers do things right, it doesn’t insulate them, their families, or their children from the vicissitudes of our society, which has lost its mooring. Really, it has. No one can even define the semantics of our roles or actions in any substantial way today.

But thankfully, one thing stands against all the assaults and assails of whatever is wrong with us as individuals and as a society, and that is that “Love Never Fails“.

It really doesn’t. If you really love your child or your spouse, or any relationship with true care and concern for them as a human being, as someone that matters, then you will go a long way toward nurturing that soul. And they will thrive from it.

Don’t get sidetracked about what that love looks like. Don’t get fooled by some made-up experts rules. Do things that puts the wellbeing of that person on the top of your list.

Being a Christian, I don’t think there is any defining lesson on what that looks like more than you might find in I Cor. 13, the Love Chapter of First Corinthians. I don’t think we can make up what love is like any more than we can make up what nutrition our child needs. There are certain hard wired realities in humans and in life.

We could be more wise about disseminating real facts on that. Just like real facts on neo-nate development. Certain things happen and develop at certain stages, humans need certain things to thrive. Lets be very real about what those things consist of and how to properly deliver them to each other and to our families.

Love has elements of attachment, elements of freedom, and elements of hands-on actions. There are many recipes for a healthy relationship, and part of life’s challenge is to use the elements in a way that produces a whole human being.

For those who found themselves in Hell’s Kitchen, there is a new day to work at creating a life of Home cooked, life giving, wholeness making Love. It will be seasoned with humility, because it is hard to start over, to let go of preconceptions, and to admit we make mistakes.

But I’m very hopeful we can do this.


All right. I guess that is all I have to say about being a parent, and what I hoped to communicate. Til later, friends…

Eyes and Health

As a person with long standing and increasingly poor eye health I was very interested in this news about the massive rise in Asian myopia, the suspected cause, and suggested prevention. Consider how much outdoor time your children get during the day…

Professor Morgan argues that many children in South East Asia spend long hours studying at school and doing their homework. This in itself puts pressure on the eyes, but exposure to between two and three hours of daylight acts as a counterbalance and helps maintain healthy eyes.

The scientists believe that a chemical called dopamine could be playing a significant part. Exposure to light increases the levels of dopamine in the eye and this seems to prevent elongation of the eyeball.

BBC Science Report

Additionally, more than one study has found, this helpful eye health fact:

An analysis of eight previous studies by University of Cambridge researchers found that for each additional hour spent outside per week, the risk of myopia reduced by 2%.

Exposure to natural light and time spent looking at distant objects could be key factors

More info on eye health

With the added benefit of proper amounts of vitamin D (we usually are woefully deficient) and the implications of that deficiency in such maladies as diabetes make it even more important to make sure we, and our children, get more time outside in the sunshine.

Family- Where Art Thou?

This summer fulfilled the personal goal begun last year, focusing on family and reconnecting frayed ties. It was imperfect in results, but some important gaps were bridged. Along the journey some insights emerged.

Triggering some thoughts was a son’s question,“What useful purpose does a family reunion serve?” in response to the resurrected attempt to meet together with scattered members of my paternal side. In light of the direction our culture has taken in its view of defining family (during my generation’s watch), the question is quite valid. In fact, it is one I posed in my own early family life, in my twenties. We are making our own family circle, what good can former generations, or far flung members of a shared progenitor contribute to us? And what difference do we make to them?

The thoughts took me back to the time when the definition of family, and the outright attack on the benefit of a nuclear family unit made its way through the issues of the day. Parental rights, child’s rights, definition of marriage, divorce issues, and gay rights have all held interest in the destruction of traditional views of what purpose and benefit is contained in the form of a family and its call on relationships. The change in our thinking is accomplished … and so it can be something of a personal epiphany (as it was to me) that reconnecting along bloodlines might hold some esoteric value. Esoteric because we no longer hold a sense of belonging to each other through family ties as a general way of thinking, even though individual families may have kept such values alive for themselves…. not unlike the Biblical example of “the house of the Rechabites“. I’m not saying it is all gone to anarchy, just that it has dropped precipitously in our priorities and view of relationship benefits. It had to, given the widespread practice of divorce.

So, we have had a general disparagement of the traditional family that is fully accepted in our present culture.

I could pursue closing the arguments on that statement, but I think you can follow up the line of thinking on your own. The practices we follow in our daily lives further deteriorates the value of family ties. We don’t have time to make our own family meals, or to sit down together on a daily basis. We don’t have time to sit around and talk, especially when it can become unpleasant…. it disturbs our TV show schedule or our video game, or our computer time. We walk around in our own world of ipods, and make it distinctly difficult for someone to hold a conversation with us. A bother. A distraction. Uninteresting.

Family ties can be seen as anachronistic in such a world.

Such a world stacks the importance of self on top, with “others” playing a supporting role, at best. And should they seem unsupportive, then they may face “the axe”. And we move through a life with a constantly changing set of relationships which largely are based in “what we do“. Who we are, especially in terms of relationships, becomes increasingly irrelevant.

So you can see how a family reunion may suffer in our view of its benefit and the worth of spending time and effort .

This whole aspect of our attitude towards, and value of nuclear and traditional family structure, affects not only something like whether we meet together in a reunion, it is evident in our other structures of relationship, as well. It affects church, business corporate, and community relationships as well. We are dependent on making a case of how something benefits the individual. The group identification largely remains empty. But with a placeholder.

That placeholder can become something very threatening in many ways. Largely because the need for belonging in the human experience does not simply disappear. It searches, it waits, and it needs to be fulfilled in some way. Rejection and denial in no way diminishes this wiring in our psyche.

I still have some of the story to tell. Maybe this will be a “mini-series”.

A couple quotes to consider:

“Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we’ve put it in an impossible situation” ~ Margaret Mead.

The lack of emotional security of our American young people is due, I believe, to their isolation from the larger family unit. No two people – no mere father and mother – as I have often said, are enough to provide emotional security for a child. He needs to feel himself one in a world of kinfolk, persons of variety in age and temperament, and yet allied to himself by an indissoluble bond which he cannot break if he could, for nature has welded him into it before he was born. ~Pearl S. Buck

Families, Relationships, Marriage

I spent some time with a branch of my father’s family this weekend. We spent much conversation “catching up”, but also discussing some of the dynamics of the three topics of the post title. I don’t think one of the things discussed was uncomplicated. There are so many shadings in human relationships, and rarely are our actions or those of others completely clear and simple… or maybe I should say few are “stand alone”.

For the past few years I have had this stream of thought about how much our lives influence others. Sometimes that influence is so slight and transitory that it is almost invisible, but certain circumstances highlight it. We are presently in the throes of summer Midwest heat, but much of this thought process took form in depth of winter; by happenstance when traveling in the passenger seat, looking through the window and observing tracks left in the snow. Those tracks left a story that I, in my fast moving vehicle, could read in an instant ….the meandering of a pet dog, the trail of someone checking their mailbox, the startled jump and changed direction of a deer. All were pieces of a story that unfolded in impressions upon the snowy white pages of the landscape. Leaving their marks upon the places they had tread, one could piece together whether they had hurried or whether they had followed their habitual trail, whether they belonged there or had wandered warily within boundaries designed to curtail them.

The thought, then, was of how often we tread within the realm of another’s life, for however long or brief a time; sometimes with enough repetitions and weight to wear a trail, but more often thoughtlessly rambling through. We are unaware, except by brief accident of circumstance, that our mark was left within time upon a persons experience, pressed in the earthen face of their lives. It made me think of how much more careful we might be with each other if our eyes could spiritually see our impact.

For good or for harm, but certainly for something. We often matter in ways we cannot fathom.

The conversations reminded me of this, and of truths which remain whether we recognize or live by them or not. we can read research or articles that assure us that our children do fine without us, or that we do fine without the nurture or care of our parents, or a relationship, over, is forgotten and left behind. We carry our stories of life, and they are somehow or other written into the terrain of our lives. As the mark of a long ago tree or ancient edifice might be seen long after its physical existence is erased in every other way. Some of us understand these truths, despite the assurances otherwise…. and some of us trip upon them disconcertingly, as we move on in life.

We carry the imprint of our family, of our friends, and even of strangers that cross our paths…. and they also carry those we have made. And are making.

For Nathan

Nathan, Siris, whatever you call yourself now, you will always be my son. I love you.

What’s the Meaning of a Name?

I was always interested in name meanings, perhaps because my own name was an unusual one, but probably because most people think that the meaning of their names holds some interest, or sparks their curiosity to some degree. We are seeking our identity most of our lives, and what is more of an identifier than our personal name?

When my children were conceived, and in some cases before, I had mulled over what I would call them. In some ways it is such a reflection of what the parent imagines or hopes for their child. At times, though the name comes in response to the characteristics in the child. Not in our culture so much, but we, too, adjust matching up meaning through either waiting to choose the name after the birth, or through giving a nickname of some kind.

Most of the time those nicknames or endearments fade into the past, although they are sort of a secret sort of shortcut to the past with those who might call up the “Tommy”, “Lainie”, or “Pokey” [my Dad’s nickname because he procrastinated, did things slow but sure]…whatever the nickname might have been.

I always paid attention to the meanings of the names when choosing them for my children, keeping within cultural acceptability and preferably with a spiritual wish, or connotation. I remember choosing the name of one of my sons, Nathanial Michael. he came after a previous miscarriage that was difficult to adjust to. His first name means “gift”, “Gift of God, God has given”. It is actually a verb, with the meaning of being a giver.
Depending on the context the word is translated in these way :

to give, put, set

1. (Qal)
1. to give, bestow, grant, permit, ascribe, employ, devote, consecrate, dedicate, pay wages, sell, exchange, lend, commit, entrust, give over, deliver up, yield produce, occasion, produce, requite to, report, mention, utter, stretch out, extend
2. to put, set, put on, put upon, set, appoint, assign, designate
3. to make, constitute
2. (Niphal)
1. to be given, be bestowed, be provided, be entrusted to, be granted to, be permitted, be issued, be published, be uttered, be assigned
2. to be set, be put, be made, be inflicted
3. (Hophal)
1. to be given, be bestowed, be given up, be delivered up
2. to be put upon

It was the name of a prophet who spoke to King David.

I am reminded of the scripture: James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.”
That statement declares that a recognition is made of this person, that they are intended to bring good into that family through their lives.

The second name, Michael, is the name of the archangel who in the book of Daniel is designated as the angel over the particula matters of the Hebrew people.
It is a given name that comes from the Hebrew:(Mikha’el), meaning “Who is like God?” which asks a rhetorical question. To be named ‘Michael’ is a constant reminder that no one else is like God, that He is holy, and alone to be worshiped.

So the combination of the two names creates a statement that God gave this life to be a giver of truth, and a testimony to the fact that there is no other god than the Lord God, alone.

I have a story for each one of my children, and I try to remember their unique destinies including the hints of them before there were any lines written on the pages of their lives.

What is the story of your name? What were the hopes attached to that story, and what does it mean to you now?
What’s in a name?- a Christmas meditation.

My name, Ilona.

Clear Direction > Home

I wrote recently on the Woman’s Bible Study that I have started to attend for the summer. You also might remember that I am in fellowship in a new church plant (read: small church). One thing that happens in a small, new church is the search for direction in the vision and the emphasis of the message and activities. It starts out in a certain place, but the dynamics of people, circumstances, and unseen factors creates change and focus. Sometimes it is choppy, sometimes it builds in momentum, but whenever changes and moves are at work, patterns often emerge. Right now, there is a pattern I see, not only for myself, but in a larger perspective.

Years back, in fact not just once, but several times, there was a momentum of sentiment and decision to move “homeward”. There was at one time even a catch phrase for this: Cocooning. That had to do with an attempt to recenter activity and a reaction to the economy of the time. Sometimes we are forced to center on our homelife when our finances are tight. But apart from the economy at this time, there is a supernatural move that I intuit.
A sense of “home” in building closer relationship, and moving closer together as a group. It is in an overall sense: closer intimacy with the Lord, closer vulnerability and transparency as Believers- in both personal and public ways; closer relationships that demand a real effort at resolving conflict.

I’m finding that when we respond half-heartedly, perhaps as we were used to in the past, the cards quickly tumble: there are no houses of cards in this new direction towards home. It is apparent to me that the older societal move that resulted in “being home alone” has further refined to a new recognition of our interdependency and emotional need of the “other”.

How does this relate to my time spent in a Woman’s Bible Study? It is no longer only what I get out of it, whether in new insights or camaraderie. It is how we move together, closing the spaces between us that make our interactions artificial. It is how we interrelate in meeting needs of our own, each other, our family, our fellowship…. and creating something new for the community outside our own to interact with. Sort of social networking in a Real Life sense. Maybe I can get some insights in how social networking is changing our online emphasis for clues on how this works as we bring it into our physical lives and relationships. Where it is more about building relationship than a top down “talking to”… becoming a “talk with” conversation. More about who we are, than who I am.

Maybe this is necessary to break down the stereotyping, the mistakes of the past, and the ineffectual way we have gotten used to living with each other. For me personally, I have two main goals for my time spent in the study: one is to help my daughters grow in their Christian walk as we attend it together, another is to move the spaces between myself (mostly made by me) and other women to more closely live intersected lives. I can’t foretell how successful this will be, only that this is a needed direction. Going home with a purpose and an open heart.

Can young women get a sense of who they are as women without some modeling in a social sense? That is, can we as women in the mature generation continue to be disconnected and “finding ourselves”, and expect to relay anything but the most garbled communication of what it means to be a woman?

I need to catch up now on doing the lesson in the Esther study book…. later, friends. If I get more clarity you will be the first to hear. On the meantime, anyone have thoughts on this… or is there something you discern in the patterns you see surfacing around you? Love to hear about it.

A New Perspective on Lent…for kids

If you jump on over to Rhetorical Christian’s innovative thoughts on how to celebrate the Lent/Easter season with young children, ‘The Twelve Days of Easter’ might be one way you give your children a new insight into an important season in the Church calender. All these seasonal times are retrospective of the ancient form of holidays passed down in the Old Testament and sometimes clearly connected to them (as Easter is to Passover). Modern ways of making the lessons come alive to us and our children are certainly welcome. Maybe it will be something that sparks a new tradition for you.