Friday, September 23, 2016

A Forever Name (What's in a Name, Part 3)

Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of His household.
- Ephesians 2:19

Do you ever feel like someone, or even a whole group of people, simply does NOT “get” you?  Conversely, can you think of a time and how you felt when your soul truly connected with another and you felt known, understood and loved, at least in those brief moments?  This is the direction we are heading in today…

In the first post in this “What’s in a Name” series, we examined the significance and life-giving power in a name, and how we are adopted into Jesus’ own family.  In the second post, I shared about a weighty piece of my healing that came with changing my name a couple years following my son Warren’s death. 

In this final post in the series, I want to talk about our forever names. 

Do you know that you actually have another name picked out for you by Jesus?  We are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us” (Romans 8:37), and some day, through Christ’s power and redemptive work, we will overcome this life’s trials and brokenness.  The Lord will bring His Kingdom to full fruition and will give us a new name written on white stone (Revelation 2:17).  A name that Christ has chosen, just for YOU, that will be revealed when all is made new, when we see our Lord face to face. 

As healing as adding Warren back into my name was, the hole and pain obviously remain.  This redemptive part of my journey provides a mere glimpse of what is to come.  One of the many lifelines of hope the Lord gives us while we continue to labor for Him in a broken world, at times feeling lost within our own swirl of unrealized dreams and failings.  However, when we receive our new names from the Lord, we will know that the final tear has been wiped away.

Y'all, this name is like the best kept secret in the entire world!  It will be known only to you and the Lord – a sacred love gift for you.  When we are called by this name, I imagine we will recognize it immediately. In that one word, we will feel both known and loved – 100% and not just in that moment but in the eternal sense.  As though Someone truly and finally “gets” us for the very first time, more than we even “get” ourselves.  Moreover, I imagine we will intrinsically know that this name fully embodies our very essence in our redeemed state, covered by the blood of the Lamb as God sees us. 

Can you imagine a name that resonates with the deepest parts of your being, fulfilling your deepest yearnings?  God can.  And this name waits for you.

While my new name, Mary Elizabeth Warren Stone, helps and provides some balm on a still broken heart, I cannot wait for the day when the final tear is wiped away.  When Jesus makes all things new.  When I am given that white stone bearing my new name and representing full healing and full union with my Lord and Savior.  What a joyful day that will be!

While at the beach earlier this summer, we were in the northeast which is not our norm.  This beach had rocks all over it  also not our typical beach experience.  I had already been thinking about all of this at that time, as God had encouraged me with these promises and pointing me to Revelation 2:17.  Well, wouldn't you know, we found not one but several PURE, WHITE stones out on the beach!  Of course we had to take some pictures and bring them home.  They are set out, serving as a reminder of the great hope and great God we have.

Praise be to God for bringing us out of darkness and separation and adopting us into His family, giving us His name, and promising that, some day, we will stand alongside Him as those who have overcome.  Our permanent name for our eternal home will be bestowed upon you.  Yes, Someone “gets” you, every inch.  And even in that knowledge (which can be terrifying if you dwell on it), you are dearly and deeply loved. 

There is hope amidst the loss and darkness we all feel and fear.  A further and fuller healing, along with a forever name, awaits. 

Do not fear, for I have redeemed you.
I have called you by name;
You are mine.
-Isaiah 43:1b

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Have You Ever Wanted to Change Your Name? (What's in a Name, Part 2)

When I married almost eleven years ago, I was very excited to take my husband’s name, to be identified with him and to let the whole world know that Meade and Mary Elizabeth are a unit.

However, having a southern, double name, I was faced with a predicament.  Which of my names would I drop?  Maybe it was youth or naiveté, but I decided to heed the advice of someone who claimed that a person could really only have three names, that it was much too complicated to have four names on official government forms, employee documents, and the like.  (Which is pretty hilarious in its own way now, considering the lack of paying jobs I have had in the past eleven years!)  Therefore, I felt I had no choice but to drop my maiden name, Warren.  After all, I could not give up Mary or Elizabeth.  My family was supportive, and life went on… now as Mary Elizabeth Stone. 

As most of you know, Meade and I were thrilled to welcome our identical twin boys, John and Warren, a few years later in January of 2009.  We were smitten with them and with the names we had lovingly selected for them, although we let about 24 hours pass before assigning the names to each child.  William “Warren” was named for my father (and grandfather, brother, and other family members on both sides).  I cherished being able to honor my father in this way and to have a child to carry on this rich legacy of faith, character, and devotion.  I have always been grateful for my family of origin, and it felt fitting to utilize my maiden name in such a special way. 

We were devastated when Warren went home to be with the Lord at only 19 days “new,” and even more devastated (if possible) to find out a month or so later that his death was caused by a medical error rather than his underlying condition.  Grief is always complicated, but this just felt like too much to bear. A gaping, torturous hole was left in our hearts, newly acquired minivan, and home set up for twins; we may not have made it if it were not for sweet "John" Meade. 

 John, 4.5 months old

For those of you who have experienced grief and loss (which is each one of us, being human and living in a broken world), you understand that the grieving process is truly a process.  It is not endured only to be conquered, once and for all. It comes in waves, cycles, bursts, surprises, routines, holidays, and anniversaries.  In a sense, grief takes on new life with fresh and even joyful experiences, such as the pregnancy and birth of a new child or moving to a new home yet leaving another behind that held precious memories you fear will now forever be water under the bridge. 

Oftentimes, we must get through the initial crisis in any way we can (usually with the prayer, help, and support of many loved ones) before we can truly engage with these other complex facets of grief that remain or seemingly pop up out of the blue. Before the deep and enduring realities of loss settle in. 

       “I don’t think any of us can tell our most vulnerable stories in the moment they occur for fear that they may undo us.  We have to wait until we are in a season of safety before we can open up our deepest wounds…
        Perhaps like Mary after the birth of Jesus, I had needed to ponder these things in my heart, wrestle with them, and offer them to God before I offered them to anyone else.”

One of these deeply painful layers for me was that I lost my name and this special honoring of my father when we lost our son.  Of course, I realize that Warren is not lost to the Lord, that we still have a son named William Warren and always will.  But, the grief of not having that little boy with that specific name here and now presented an additional grief burst after the early trauma and tears had subsided. 

I was sick over this and even wrote a letter to my dad explaining my anguish…. for him, for me, for us all.  Additionally, I was distraught that my own name no longer contained “Warren.”  Well, in this life, there are certain things that we can do something about – and changing your name is one of them! 

As we discussed in What’s in a Name, Part 1, there is power and significance in a name.  As we observe from the Bible, names can speak life and healing. We also see how names can be amended or changed (for example, Simon to Peter or Saul to Paul).  Names are a chief source of identification and worth, a way we imitate our Creator God.  Moreover, a name can serve as a way to remember – a banner we give our children, for example, to proclaim what the Lord has done in our families and how He has carried us through different seasons. 

Approximately two years after Warren’s death, I made the choice to break the random, self-imposed, three-name maximum rule and to engage the lengthy, yet empowering and healing, process of adding Warren back into my name.  I will never forget walking down the steps of the Virginia Beach courthouse that day, with official, signed documents in hand.  I felt more “myself,” more whole and complete in some way.  I had done something about my grief, something that wasn’t necessarily convenient and certainly not quick.  However, in the effort and process of becoming Mary Elizabeth Warren Stone, God delivered a significant piece of my healing. I was once again honoring my family that so lovingly raised me but, more significantly and for the first time in this way, I was getting to honor my precious son a couple years after we ushered him into the arms of Jesus. 

I still smile and swell with pride, the positive, freeing, hopeful kind, whenever I think of my name, my son Warren, and the impact he has forever made on my life and for God’s Kingdom.  I see my “new” name as an ebenezer, a marker of one of the many ways God has given me significant pieces of healing along the way.  A sign of hope that additional healing will keep on coming for us all (See: Let Them Eat Cake).   

     “It is only in releasing ourselves, giving ourselves fully over to the pain, and riding its cleansing wave that we find new life…   
      It’s okay to feel it.  It’s okay and it’s necessary, it’s holy and good work.” 

I am incredibly grateful we serve a God who enables us to actively partner with our grief.  To truly make beauty from ashes (Isaiah 61:3).  With our King and in His economy, life always comes from death.  We do not have to fear that the grief may overtake us if we lean into it and when we certainly feel overcome by it… wondering what, if anything, will remain.  

Instead, we can lean in with hope, trusting that, despite the depths of our mourning, we will never be lost to God.  Not even the greatest loss can snatch us out of His hands.  As we lean into our grief and take an active role, we are given beauty and meaning that serves as a healing balm for our hearts.  Grief doesn’t need to be swept under the carpet to eek out its days, hidden yet very much alive in its original, raw, and incredibly painful form.  Instead, the darkness can be faced and then, through time and God’s grace, transformed into pure glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

“But He knows the way that I take;
    when He has tested me, I will come forth as gold…
I am not silenced by the darkness,
    by the thick darkness that covers my face.”
-Job 23:10,17

 Stone family does Staycation Labor Day weekend!  Cabela's and Waffle House... obviously.
John is now 7.5, Daniel is 5, Andrew is 2.5, and Michael turns 1 on the 11th!

Stay tuned for: A Forever Name (What’s in a Name, Part 3)