It’s been over three months since I got back from Greece. That seems oddly too long and too short all at the same time.
At this point, the novelty has worn off. People have mostly stopped asking if I’m holding it together and/or when I’m going back. The requests to hear about the trip have died down for the most part, with the exception of a few preaching opportunities. It has officially reached the point where I think it would be socially inappropriate for me to burst into tears mid-conversation (it might have happened… a few times). Life moves on, which isn’t a bad thing, and I think most expect that my life should be pretty much back to normal at this point.
Which it totally isn’t. I don’t think it ever will be.
What I didn’t expect when I went to Greece was how radically it would change my life.
While I’m still living in the same place, working at the same place, worshiping at the same place, and spending time with the same people, everything is completely different. I feel like a flower that’s been transplanted somehow- one version of me taken out, another put in its place. Only now the pot doesn’t quite fit. Though, if I’m honest, it might not have been fitting for quite a while.
I’m kind of big on names. It might be because I’m into words. I think names are important and meaningful, and Lord help my future children, their names are going to be obnoxiously significant.
Some may know this, but when I went to Thailand several years ago, Papa God gave me a new name. He did some major repairing in my life and while I read through Isaiah 62 (read it!), He renamed me. It’s kind of personal, but the basic meaning of the name is that I am beloved, lovely, and his love song to the world. * I’ve been carrying that name since then, praying into it, and asking that he develop those traits, and an understanding of them, in me.
I continued to do that in Greece, one day writing in my Bible asking God to “teach me the meaning, beauty, and depth of my name.” He did, and I found a lot of meaning in the love song part specifically.
There’s a line by Switchfoot that says, “There is no song louder than love,” and I think everything that our team did in Greece is a testimony to that. Fear and hate cannot drive out love and Jesus proved that over and over and over again on the shores of Lesvos. I love that part of my Thailand name.
In contrast, I’ve never felt a significant emotional attachment to my full given name. I love Chelsie, and the family history and legacy of faith that it represents, but I always figured that my middle name was just kind of thrown in there because it fit. Let’s be honest, 50% of 90s baby girls have the middle name Marie. (The other half is made up of Lynns, Anns, and Elizabeths. Come on, parents! Your children are going to want to be hipsters when they hit 2016! These are the most original names you could come up with?)
During one especially chill day in camp, I was talking to a teammate about how she chose names for her daughters. She asked about the meaning of my name and I explained that Chelsie/ea means “harbor” or “port of ships.” When it came to my middle name, I drew a blank. I realized that for all of my interest in names, and all my joking about having the 90s middle name, I had no idea what Marie actually means.
So I googled. Google knows everything.
And for the hundredth time on the trip, I was stunned silent.
Marie (french): bitter; from the bitter sea.
My full name, given to me almost 25 years ago by my parents in a Richmond hospital, means, “harbor from the bitter sea.”
I learned this while sitting on the floor of my apartment following an 8 hour shift in a refugee camp, offering hospitality and love to Syrian, Iraqi, and Afghan refugees being pulled from the bitter Aegean.
I’m not one to throw around the word “prophetic” but, what??? This is the name, the identity that I’ve carried since birth- the one spoken over me every day of my life. And somewhere on a tile floor in Molyvos I realized that while God truly has been teaching me the meaning of my Thailand name, he has also been readying me to understand the beauty and significance of the one I’ve had since the beginning.
I know it’s just a name, guys. I know the Shakespeare line, a rose and all that.
But I also know that God knows me. He knows how I think and how to get through to me. And I think he uses metaphor and symbols and poetry to make my literary geek mind pay attention. He used this name thing to draw my attention to the way that he has been shaping my call and passions since the beginning.
Since coming back, Papa God has thrown EVERYTHING that I had planned for my life out the window.
The things that have defined me and directed my preparation for the future: gone. The place where the passions of my heart and God’s heart hit the ground through action is now in a totally different (figurative) time zone.
The cries of my heart have become “welcome” and “you are wanted.”
I want every aspect of my life to be a testimony to the desperate desire of Jesus for his babies (ages 0-120). Proof that they are wanted, desired, precious, chosen, welcome, and LOVED, no questions asked, no stipulations given. There are no immigration papers, custody files, or criminal records that could or will ever change that fact.
This is my drum and I’ll beat it to the day I die.
In Greece I realized that this is what I was made for. Yes, to be a love song, but also to be a safe harbor- for those the world has labeled unlovable. To welcome, to hug, to comfort. And maybe to be a little bit of a fierce Mama-bear when necessary.
Jesus is still waking me up to what that looks like, but I’m so excited for the journey.
I’m praying that he keeps revealing the truth of who I am in Him, and keeps nurturing and refining the passions and gifts that He has given me. I’m praying for the courage to step out into what He calls me to next. I’m guessing that it’s going to require some massive changes and uprootings and transplantings and general discomfort. I guess most growth does.
A friend sent me this excerpt from a poem a while back and it’s been shaping my life these days. If there are others out there feeling the stretch and excitement of growing pains, I pray it brings encouragement.
As far as you can, hold your confidence. Do not allow confusion to squander This call which is loosening Your roots in false ground, That you might come free From all you have outgrown. - John O'Donohue
*If you want to talk more about this and my testimony, I would love to have coffee and chat. Restoration and renaming are pretty much my favorite things to talk about.