Sounding it Out


Like any good parents, my husband and I argued agonized over what to name our children.  I wanted to name my daughter Eliza; it means “happy” (which I hoped she would be), offered a variety of nicknames (in case she hated it,) and passed the Aunt Laura test (she couldn’t come up with a single way to make fun of it.)  My husband wanted to name her Mahalia; he was still in denial that he is neither that cool nor Hawaiian.  The debate ended when a friend suggested we “name her both.”  Sounded reasonable until I looked up the definition of Mahalia.  It means “fat.”  Refusing to name my child “fat and happy,”  I chose Teagan; a name popular in Australia in 1997 (according to google.)

My son came with similar controversy.  My vote was  Max; a good strong German name, which unfortunately combined with our good strong German last name to evoke images of overgrown and groomed nose hairs.  My
husband loved Josiah; just like eight of our closest friends who also planned to name their sons Josiah.  We named him Tayen:  a South American Indian name that means “light.”

Despite the fact nobody can pronounce the names, my Grandmother just calls both my kids Taygan, and learning that in North America Tayen is a feminine name meaning “goddess”; I stand by the choices.  My son waivers.

At 18 months old, we bought him a shirt with a picture of Bob Marley on it.  He spent six months telling everyone that his name is Bob.  By two, he mastered his Clint Eastwood impression and used it to demand we call him TJ.  At four, he hit me with the silent treatment if I called him Tayen.  Now-a-days, he just rolls his eyes and acts like I kissed him in front of his friends. 

As much as I realized he hates his name, it totally slid under the radar that he weasled his way through Kindergarten without ever learning how to spell it.  First grade hit him with a series of “all about me” assignments.  One of which was a poem using the letters of his name.  All the other kids wrote poems like: LACY . . . Loveable — Artistic — Candy Eater — Young.  My son wrote: TJ . . . Tiger — Jaguar. 

He complained that he needed more letters.  His teacher suggested they use his “real” name, but neither of them could figure out how to spell it.  She agreed to give him a really big piece of candy if he starts writing Tayen on all is papers.

Today, he came home with his spelling test.  I stood there very proud:  100 % on all eight challenge words.  Then I looked again.  At the top was written: Tayean. 

God calls us a lot of things:  child, friend, beloved, disciple, his unique creation, his joy  . . . .  With all I put in to choosing my children’s names, how much more meaning must there be in His names for us. 

Sometimes He calls us child, while we call ourselves Bob.  Sometimes He calls us friend, while we impersonate a slave.  Sometimes we hear Him call us “Beloved,” and we remain silent and do not answer.  Sometimes, we hear that we are His joy and we shudder like it’s a kiss from Grandma.

We can slide under the radar, call ourselves a Christian, but never know what that spells out in our life.  Taking the time to fully understand who we are to Him, is like winning a prize. 

We are not orphans, we have a father who has a deep and rich inheritance for us.  We have a friend who sticks closer than a brother.  A companion whose love has no height nor depth nor breadth.  We have a teacher who longs to instruct us, who writes upon our hearts.  We ARE His joy.

Consider that.  The God of the Universe, calls YOU his joy.   Now that is a big piece of candy.

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