The Power of Words (and Names)

I’ve spent a lot of time this past year thinking of the words we speak over one another, and the powerful affect (both good and bad) they can have on others.

This summer, I made subway art for the boys rooms by creating a collage of the words that I pray and speak over them as individuals. Words the represent who they are, who they will become and what will characterize their lives.

For Theo I chose words like: explorer, free spirit, adventurer and friend. For Oliver I chose words like: defender, fearless, kind and encourager. For both boys, I chose the word “brother,” not just because they are brothers and I want them to be close (I do), but also because I want brotherhood to be a defining aspect of their lives. I chose words that already represent who my boys are, but also, who I believe they will become. I believe in the power of words.

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My first encounter with the power of words, and specifically names, came when Theo was only a few months old. To say I was struggling is an almost laughable understatement. I was drowning in my own unhappiness. Theo was born early (you can read more about that here), and I was completely unprepared for what the next year held for us. I was unprepared for the struggle. For the crying (both his and mine). And I was unprepared for my first experience as a mom to be so hard.

When my struggle was at its peak, a woman from my church who I hardly knew asked to pray with me. At the end, she asked if I knew what Theo’s name meant. I said no. She took out her phone, looked up the meaning of ‘Theodore,’ and with a smile that held so much kindness and compassion she read: “Meaning of Theodore: gift of God.”

It was at that moment that I understood the power of words and names. I could look at my situation with eyes that were full of self pity, frustration and depression, or I could allow the powerful meaning of my son’s name to wash over me. He was a gift, my gift, from GodI could do this because this gift was hand chosen and given to me just like I choose gifts and give to others – because I know who they are, what they love, and what they are capable of. 

God didn’t give me a tough baby to make me miserable, he gave me Theo because he knew I could do this. He knew that I was exactly who Theo needed. And whats more, he knew that Theo is who I needed. There is so much about who Theo is – his silliness, his bravery, his curiosity – that inspires me and fills my life beyond what I could ever have imagined for myself. He truly is a gift.

Fast forward to a few years later when we found out we were having another boy. Mike and I both discussed a lot of names for our next son, but we ultimately knew in our hearts that this son, was a peacemaker. That he was tender, kind and full of joy. And that is exactly who he is. Oliver, has filled our hearts and home with so much peace and joy that it’s hard to describe in words. You just have to experience it.

This Christmas, I commissioned Rhiannon, my SIL, to make mugs for Theo and Oliver that represented an aspect of their names. For Oliver, Rhiannon carved a beautiful olive branch onto his mug. The olive branch, not only a symbol of peace, but also a symbol of wisdom, glory, fertility, power, and pureness. It is also associated with the color green, which signifies life.

For Theo, she carved a stunning falcon. I love what the falcon symbolizes:

The falcon is a symbol of liberty, freedom, and victory. Therefore, it also symbolizes hope to all those who are in bondage whether moral, emotional, or spiritual (definition found here).

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As we are about to enter a new year, I’ve been thinking and praying through what my word of the 2015 will be. For this past year, my word has been “peace.” When I first chose that word, it was because I felt overwhelmed by the change and chaos of my life and was desperate for peace – a quality that I highly value. But as the year went on, I realized that I have peace, it is alway with me. No matter the circumstances, I have peace that I can cling to and claim.

With that understanding came the realization that my word carried new meaning. The peace that was to define my year wasn’t for me, it was for others. I was to be a peacemaker. I was to reach out and encourage and love those who needed a little peace in their lives.

For 2015, armed with the peace of 2014, I believe my word is “new.” I don’t entirely know why, because so many new things have happened already! Does that mean more new things are on our horizon? Does it mean I am going to experience new things? Or maybe I will continue to be shaped into a new person. I don’t know. What I do know, however, is that God has already gifted me all of the love, joy and peace that I need to tackle what comes next. And I. Can’t. Wait.

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