Known by Name

It is a common story in our family that our father knew every plant in our mountain region by name. That was part of his job as a Naturalist – to know and share the names of the plants in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. Now he was humble and quick to deny that he knew the name of EVERY plant, yet I never remember asking him the name of a plant he did not know. We frequently went on hikes with our father as children and after he retired and came back to live permanently in the mountains he continued to share his knowledge of plant names. My older brother Garry and I have often said we wished we had paid attention when Dad was sharing his vast knowledge. Our younger brother, Gregg, has a son who has an immense knowledge of his own in plant taxonomy. Our Dad was SO proud of this grandson and enjoyed “talking plants” with Evan.

We have planted a tree in honor of the birth of each of our grandchildren. These trees are growing just as our grandchildren are growing. They also remind us of several truths in grandparenting.

  • each child/tree is unique
  • they grow at their own pace (as with trees – some are taller/shorter, bigger/smaller than others)
  • environmental/nurturing conditions affect growth
  • some “bloom” every year, some do not
  • some struggle at times and need extra attention
  • there are times a tree/child needs pruning (discipline) to ensure greater growth
  • adverse conditions greatly impact growth

Each of our grandchildren has a name. I sometimes call them the wrong name – just as I did their parents. Their names are unique just as they are. Looking at the trees planted in their honor reminds me just how different and special each grandchild is.

Our Heavenly Father looks at us the same way.

Psalm 139:13-15 N L T

13 You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body
    and knit me together in my mother’s womb.
14 Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex!
    Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it.
15 You watched me as I was being formed in utter seclusion,
    as I was woven together in the dark of the womb.

Just as we know the names of our grandchildren or the trees around us, God knows us by name. He does not forget who we are or call us the wrong name.

I love that God tells us, His people, that He has called us BY NAME.

He knows us,

He formed us

We are His.

Called by Name

This inchworm is measuring a flower in units of its own length – thus the common name – inchworm. Its scientific name – geometridae – also alludes to its measuring ability. I now know this name and the origin of the name because I have been participating in the 2021 Mountain True BioBlast. It is a friendly competition between our county and two nearby counties with similar bio diversity to determine how many different species of plants and animals can be recorded within a two week period.

I have enjoyed this so much! Most of my pictures have been taken in our own yard. We are blessed with such diversity here on Macktown Gap. I don’t know all the names – but the app we use on our phones – called iNaturalist – identifies the plant or animal BY NAME! It records the location as well. Not only have I had fun looking for as many different plants and critters as I could find, I have learned their names in the process.

This butterfly, named Great Spangled Fritillary landed on a flower called Butterfly Weed. Such an appropriate name.

Names are important. They not only give significance to something but often describe it as well. Instead of “look at those plants”, saying “look at that Jack-in-the-Pulpit” identifies and singles out one plant from among many others.

God gave Adam the task of naming all the animals and birds in the Garden of Eden – Genesis 2:19. The names of things has been important since the very beginning of creation.

As a teacher I worked very hard to learn the names of my students. I was not always good at remembering – but I really did try. It was important to me that each student knew they were unique and important to me. Knowing their name was a way for me to acknowledge them. (Kristen and Chelsea Cucumber are identical twins and they had to constantly forgive me for mixing up their names – as did twins Kristen and Kelsey Bradley) Now I have identical twin grandsons. Poor Amos and Tyler…..

But now, O Jacob, listen to the Lord who created you.
    O Israel, the one who formed you says,
“Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you.
    I have called you by name; you are mine.  Isaiah 43:1

I love that God tells us, His people, that He has called us BY NAME. He knows us, He formed us.

We are His.

What’s in a Name?

Abi and Dog

“We can’t name our baby after a dog!” Phil replied in an exasperated voice.

“But I named our first dog “Abigail” because it was my favorite name,” I explained.

Those of you who know our family know that our third daughter and fourth child has the beautiful name – Abigail.

By the time we had our third daughter, Phil’s resistance to the name had faded along with the memory of that first dog. She was a Bassett Hound that wandered into our lives, and then wandered out after we paid vet bills for shots and surgery to have her spayed.

I’ve never thought of our daughter being named after a dog.

The name ‘Abigail’ has a Hebrew origin and means ‘source of joy’. Our Abigail has certainly been a source of joy for our family and many others who know her. I recently read that Abigail and Hannah, (our first daughter’s name) have been among the most popular English female names for the past several years. The WEB sites on which I looked this information up varied slightly – but Abigail and Hannah were in the top 20 on all three lists.

When we chose those names, we thought we were being unique – little did we know.

Yet once you name a child something – the name begins to fit them – or does the child begin to fit the name?

God puts significant importance in names. He sometimes changed an individual’s name because of an important change in their life.

Abram became Abraham
Sarai became Sarah
Jacob became Israel
Saul became Paul

Jacob’s name change was the result of a struggle he had with God.

Genesis 32:24-29

24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”
29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.”
But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

The part that impressed me in this passage was verse 28 – “you have struggled with God and with humans and have OVERCOME”. (emphasis mine)

God changed Jacob’s name to a name that meant “he struggles with God”.

I am encouraged by this passage because Jacob struggled and didn’t stop until he received a blessing. Jacob was even injured physically and limped afterwards because of this struggle – so much for us thinking that walking with God is a stroll through the park!

Many of us are struggling right now.

We may feel like we are in the midst of a wrestling match with one of our children, our spouse, our in-laws, a grandchild, or even God.

Hang in there! Don’t give up until you sense God’s blessing!

We will sense God’s blessing in our lives – not when we get what we want – but when we KNOW and trust that God is faithful to take on our struggle for us. He gave us His only son Jesus –

Philippians 2:8-11 (NLT)

8 He humbled himself in obedience to God
and died a criminal’s death on a cross.
9 Therefore, God elevated him to the place of highest honor
and gave him the name above all other names,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow,
in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father.