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Who Are You?

I’ve been asking this question a lot lately.  Maybe it’s a mid-life deal?  I don’t know.  Regardless, I”ve found myself asking, “who am I”?  I am a wife, mother, sister, aunt, intercessor, ministry leader, writer.  None of these descriptions really seems to sum up who I am.  I do all those things, but they don’t define me or my purpose.  I’ve always been interested in name meanings.  Each of my children have interesting, unique or unusual names.  For each of them, their names were chosen deliberately.  Some were chosen because of a specific meaning we wanted to speak over them.  Others were chosen because God highlighted a verse in His word to us while I was pregnant.  Our youngest was given a name that God showed us about 9 years before she was born.  We knew the name was for her and we reserved it, even though there were other children who were born in those nine years.  We held that name for her.  It holds a great deal of meaning even pointing in some ways to her destiny.

                Names are important.  Each time I speak my children’s names I’m declaring something over them.  My oldest Son’s name is Tadao.  It’s Japanese, it means “Gentle Warrior”.  When I was pregnant with him and we began seeking the Lord for a name we felt impressed by the Holy Spirit that our son would be a worshipping warrior, much like King David in the Bible.  He would be a worshipper, but he would also know how to war, and his worship would be warfare.  I’m only beginning to see the fruit of this name choice.  For sixteen years every time I speak his name I am declaring over him, “you are a worshipping warrior”!  It’s a powerful declaration. 

                Until very recently I felt a negative connotation over my own name and it’s meaning.  Melissa means, “honeybee”.  I embody this name meaning well.  I am always working on something, moving from one thing to the next.  A busy worker Bee, describes my personality well.  Why is that a bad thing, you may be asking.  I’ve grown up in church and throughout childhood when I was taught the story of Mary and Martha I was always told, “be like Mary, because she chose the better thing”.  The better thing being, sitting at the feet of Jesus.  I have a hard time sitting and just soaking in Jesus’ presence.  I’ve been led to believe this is a negative.  That to be a good Christian, one must sit, and be still with Jesus.  In practical terms this looks like long extended quiet times, getting up before dawn to have that time with the Lord before the distractions of the day.  In heart terms it looks like years of guilt carried on my back because my best quiet times happen while I’m working.  As a busy mom, the kitchen sink is one of my most visited prayer rooms.  I have had quiet times in the laundry room while moving a load from the washer to the dryer.  I’ve worshipped Jesus extravagantly while mowing the lawn (yes, I’m fairly certain my neighbors think I’ve lost my mind sometimes).  A “quiet time” doesn’t have to be done while sitting. 

                I was talking with a friend recently about name meanings and she asked, “what does Melissa mean?”  I scoffed as I replied, “honeybee, and I hate it”.  I explained why, and then she preceded to shed light on why I was wrong.  She informed me that honeybees’ are hard workers, they communicate with each other by dancing, they work together with each member doing their task to benefit the whole hive, and they make honey.  This sweet liquid is the result of their work.  Without Honeybees’ hard work pollinating, the world would be void of many flowers, fruits and vegetables because these plants require a pollinator in order to produce a harvest.  This idea that being a honeybee is a positive has really shifted my entire viewpoint of who I am in light of my name meaning and calling in life.  As I dug into this concept a little more and began to do research on my name I quickly discovered another version of my name that caught my eye.  According to  “In Ireland it is sometimes used as a feminine form of the Gaelic male name Maoilíosa, which means “servant of Jesus”.  Wow!  All this time I’ve been thinking of the serving of Martha as a negative, but this meaning has brought a new perspective. 

            What if, when Jesus said that Mary had chosen the better way, what He was really saying was that her attitude was better than Martha’s?  After all, someone has to prepare and serve the food.  Someone has to clean up after the meal, and someone has to make the guests feel welcome.  I propose Martha was doing all these things because that was her role in the home at that time.  The problem was not that she was serving Jesus instead of sitting at His feet.  I suspect the problem was that she was doing it with the wrong heart.  Jesus is after our heart. 

            Who are you?  Are you more of a Martha, or a Mary?  Are you a busy worker bee, or are you content with the calm peaceful times at the feet of Jesus?  The challenge is not to be something that we were not made to be.  The challenge is to live our calling and serve Jesus with a pure heart.  Not jealous of someone else’s calling.  Martha complained to Jesus and asked Him to tell her sister to get up and help her.  Mary was doing the better thing, not because Jesus didn’t value the hard work of Martha.  Mary was doing what was better, because her heart was in the right place.  The better thing is to serve Jesus.  If that looks like spending hours in your prayer closet listing out all your neighbors and friends and lifting them up to God, do that!  If that is taking a meal to a sick friend, do that.  If that is offering a listening ear to a grieving neighbor when you’re out walking the dog, do that.  Serve Jesus!  As Christians we are all called to honor God with our lives.  That’s who you are.  You are a Christ follower, so live in such a way that your life points others to Him. 

Be Kind

                We just started a history unit on the Civil Right Movement.  Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King Jr. and other heroes of this dark time in our nation’s history.  I remember growing up learning about these people and thinking, “That’s ancient history.”  I felt it was horrible how African American’s were treated in the 1950’s and 60’s but as a child I also felt, or maybe was conditioned to think that we had gotten over that period of history and all was well.  I grew up in the 1980’s, at the time I didn’t really have a solid understanding of just how close we were to that time period, only 30 years prior people with dark skin were not allowed to drink out of the same drinking fountain as me and my brothers.  This injustice didn’t really resonate with me until recently. 

                Four years ago we adopted our daughter.  She is amazing!  She has the spunkiest personality, she is friendly and will eagerly talk to anyone!  She also just happens to be African American.  There are many things about our nation’s history that I never really had to think about until I had a daughter who looked different than me.  My biological children will not have to be taught the same things I will have to teach her.  Of course I will teach all my children to respect others, to obey the laws and to speak kindly to police officers, but my daughter will get an extra dose of how to interact in certain situations.  Has our nation grown and improved since the 1950’s?  Yes!  And I thank God for that, but bias still exists and there is still some distrust of the black community from the white community in our nation today.  In my position as a white mom of a black daughter I feel I often straddle this divide. 

Our community has largely accepted our family.  I’ve been out with my daughter plenty of times in the community and have never been mistreated, but I can’t help but wonder how she will be treated by others when she is older and I’m not with her in public.  How will others see her when she shops at Target as a teenager without me by her side?  Will the security guard follow her through the store, suspecting her of being a shoplifter?  Will other shoppers avoid her in the aisles?  I don’t know the answer to these big questions, but as a mom I can’t help but ask them.  I pray in ten years when my daughter is old enough to be out in public without me by her side that we will see even greater acceptance of African Americans in our nation.  I’ve seen glimpses of this glorious day.  I’m daily seeing the evidence of a growing diversity in my home town. 

Just because we are seeing improvement doesn’t mean we can forget the past or that we should think of it as ancient history.  The truth is there are people who are still alive today who lived through the segregation of the 1950’s and 60’s.  Yesterday I read to my kids about Ruby Bridges who was the first black child to attend an all-white school after segregation ended.  The picture in our book is in black and white, but shows a sweet looking six year old girl walking out of a school building escorted by three guards!  Why in the world would a six year old need guards to escort her to and from school?  The hatred was so tangible in the south at this time that the guards were sent for HER protection from the angry mob of mostly adults who didn’t want her attending school with their children.  What a statement about the culture of our nation at the time.  When adults are threatening children simply because of their skin color.  It is a sad time period in our nation.  Even as we discussed this great injustice and how wrong it was for people to have been treated that way.  We discussed how far we’ve come as a nation yet, how we still have a ways to go, I still felt a tad bit detached from this time period.  It’s hard to have an understanding of history that happened before your lifetime. 

Then last night I saw a post from a friend about Ruby Bridges.  She is alive today!  She turned 65 this year.  She’s only 65.  My mother in law is 65.  Suddenly everything is brought into perspective.  This may have happened before I was born, but it is NOT as ancient history as I once thought.  I’ve heard it said that those who don’t know their history are bound to repeat it.  Those are wise words and are the perspective that guides how and why I teach accurate history to my kids.  I don’t want to sugar coat even the hard things.  We’ve discussed the gas chamber of Nazi Germany, the slave trade, and more recent atrocities like abortion.  My kids that I’m homeschooling are currently in third and fifth grade.  I make sure to make the lessons age appropriate, but I don’t want to give them a false sense of pride in our nation, or avoid the yucky parts of history.  We’ve done some pretty horrible things to our fellow man in this nation and throughout world history. 

The only solution for a hurting world is Jesus.  I also take these type of hard lessons and point the lesson back to Jesus as the only solution to these very big problems.  Racial reconciliation is a process.  There has been HUGE improvements, but there are still hurting people alive today who had to live through these dark days.  May we never forget the hard roads they had to walk as we move forward in kindness, seeking to bring the love of Jesus to a hurting world.  We should take each day with this mindset, be kind, you don’t know the battles others are facing. 

A Look in the Mirror

                The day it happened took me completely by surprise.  I was in my early 30’s and I woke up one morning and looked in the mirror and my first thought was, “who’s that?” at the sight of my own reflection.  In that moment I had an epiphany.  I was an adult, happily married, mother of six amazing children and by all accounts I should have been completely content with my life.  Yet, I felt somehow like something was missing.  I saw my own face in the mirror, but I felt as if I didn’t know the person looking back at me.  Maybe it was the sudden realization that my 20’s were over.  Maybe it was the fine lines and tired eyes that did it.  Whatever it was, I didn’t like it.

                I started to think about my life, where I was, and how it was so very different than what I had planned when I married my husband as a 20 year old.  Looking back I can see just how young we were, but at the time we felt that we couldn’t wait one second longer to start our lives together.  I have no regrets.  I married my high school sweetheart.  It’s been mostly smooth sailing, but it’s not been anything like I planned. 

                When I was planning my life out as a 20 year old, I had many grand ideas and lists about how things would be.  None of those things have materialized.  In some instances, this has been really hard to grapple with.  My plans included finishing college, working for a few years before having children, traveling without children, enjoying married life, then children (only 3), back to a career, and putting all the kids in public school.  Boom, bam, done!   Out of those plans, exactly one thing went sort of how I planned it.  I did finish school.  It took longer than I planned, and I had 2 kids by the time I was done, so even in that goal, I didn’t exactly reach it the way I had hoped I would.  Isn’t that how life goes though?  Rarely do things turn out exactly as we plan.

I’ve come to grips with the fact that God’s ways are not my ways, and His thoughts are not my thoughts. Realizing this truth hasn’t necessarily made me any less prone to try to make things go the way I want, but at least I’m learning that His ways are better. My plans included 3 children and a career. God’s plans were so different, but so much better than I could have hoped or imagined. After years of resisting, I finally gave in and surrendered to His ways. My life and our family has been made richer because of it.

This journey of life reminds me of the poem; “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost.

” Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”

In life, Choosing to follow where God leads will often take us down the “road less traveled”, but going that way will make all the difference. Had I chosen to continue to ignore God’s leading and stay on the well-traveled path (the one I originally planned to take); I know four people today who would have never been born. That would have been a tragic loss.

Frost, Robert. “The Road Not Taken.” Robert Frost, The Road Not Taken and Other Poems unabridged, edited by Appelbaum, Stanley, Dover Thrift Editions, Dover Publications, 1993, pp. 1.