Nicknamed

I used to wish I had a nickname. I would think of the different things that folks might call me, and hope that folks could be playful without being cruel.

My parents called me different shortened versions of my name, and I go throughout the world by a shortened version of my name, but that is not quite the same as a nickname. I have other terms of endearment used by those who love me, such as pumpkin, sweetheart, and little do. But tender names by your parents are not the same as a nickname bestowed by your friends.

I remember reading novels as a child, wishing I was like the kids in the books, with friends who gave them nicknames. It wouldn’t even have to be a cool name. A nickname that was negative would have been nearly as appreciated, because it would have meant that I belonged to a group that cared enough to name me.

A nickname from your peers is a badge of courage. A new name establishes a connection and an identity through the act of naming. Sometimes kids can be mean and name an attribute that is negative or points out a malicious feeling that they might feel for the outsider. I always thought about trying to give myself a nickname, but I felt that it would be unauthentic, since I believed that a nickname was earned and bestowed, rather than self-appellated.

Puppy: Look. We should play. Look, look. We should play. (A puppy has adopted us. Temporarily. I am distracted by it on our porch.)

With so many rules in place about how I think one earns a nickname, it is surprising that I ever merited one. But I did.

My nickname grew out of an organic process of someone not knowing the spelling of my name at a campout one frigid night, and so she called me “C.R.” Well… that was supposed to be “K.R.,” for Kathy Randall, but the C. R. stuck anyhow. We returned to school and other folks began calling me C. R. The question finally arose as to what the “C.” stood for. Someone made the leap to “Crazy” and that was my name for the next two years.

These two years included the two summers I was a counselor at a camp in north Georgia. The friend who initially called me C.R. stuck to the idea of calling me Crazy, and she ended up being my team leader. So with her as the one who coordinated my partnerships and what have you, and with her and other friends from college calling me the same thing, the name really stuck.

I was introduced to the kids as Crazy, and though I would tell them my other name as well, I responded to Crazy just as often. I have a higher energy with kids than with any other group, and I was sleep deprived during the summers, so I acted a little crazy. I like to use my energy as I share with children, because I have found that some of the best ways that I can connect with kids is to help them laugh and relax.

I liked having a nickname. My family had named me and referred to me in according to my relationship with them, but I had not ever merited a nickname from my peers until my third year of college. I had felt that I was missing some essential part of childhood and life experience because I had only ever been called by my solitary name.

I wanted a deeper connection and inclusion. I wanted to be named again, named as part of a group, named and included. I didn’t want a simple label, rather, I wanted a way to connect and enter a group. A new name establishes a connection and an identity through the act of naming.

I wanted that connection and identity. Funny. It had happened already.

When I was baptized, I was given a name and included in the family of God and the community of the church. When I was brought before the believing community of the church I was ushered into the new life in the Spirit, symbolized by the water of baptism. I was named as a child of God, and the gathered community promised to surround me and hold me us as a member of their own community.

I had waited so long to be given a new name, that I had forgotten that I had already been promised a name as an adopted child of God. I had earnestly yearned for a new name, to be connected and included and cherished as a member of a group knit together with a common goal and connection. I already had it.

Now. The Church is not perfect. I didn’t worship with that specific gathered community again for a few years, and it has been a long while since I’ve seen them. (Though I did get to read Scripture there again for my Grandmother’s funeral last year.) When I talk about the Church, I’m not just talking about the physical building in downtown Columbus. They are not perfect, and neither is any other church on any other street corner.

But the grace about the Church is that it’s not the perfection of the individuals that determine the worth of the gathered people. Our organization and our structure and our power plays can look as messy as any other group of people. But we have a little extra help. We have someone who is dying to help us live into the grace and love offered in this gathered band of misfits and sinners. We are adopted into the family of God, and no matter how hard we fight it, God is still there, loving us.

My adoption into the family of God is part of my name, as well as my Crazy, and my pumpkin and little do. I have been called by name, and I know that I am headed home.

some of my friends from camp and college
some of my friends from camp and college
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Troop 277

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When I was in elementary school my mother led a Girl Scout troop. We had the most awesome Girl Scout troop ever. We went on camping trips where it always rained. We took hikes on islands you can only get to by ferry where wild horses roam free. We made up songs to sell Girl Scout cookies, and we sold them at the grocery store like superstars. We created our own uniforms, we didn’t wear the annoying socks or ugly skirts or shorts. We did make the concession of wearing the vest or sash, but that was only to show off the badges we earned.

And our group of girls was amazing. We still are amazing, actually. I have kept up with a few of the women who used to be part of our troop, and they are kicking ass and taking names thriving brilliantly at everything they do. If Girl Scouts is supposed to prepare us to be leaders in the world, we succeeded. Not that we all are presidents of the most powerful corporation in our areas, no, we are good at what we do, and we have found ways to lead and serve in our own unique ways.

I was proudly the most odd child in our group, as I have been in most of my other social situations… ever. But that did not deter the girls around me from being good friends to me. The weirder I got, the bigger their grace became. It was one of the best gifts that I could have ever received from a group of girls growing up. I’m sure that we all claimed our own form of misfitery, who completely fits in at age ten anyway?

When we moved the summer after I turned twelve, I tried to get connected to another girl scout troop, but the leaders were lackluster as best, and only talked about money. I only remember doing one badge project with them over the six months I stuck it out in going with them. I thank my parents for realizing that I didn’t want to keep going, and not making me do so.

I missed my friends. I missed the girls that I could be comfortable with. I missed the space where I could relax and know that being myself was acceptable. I never stopped being myself, but I didn’t bond with any of the girls at the new troop. I don’t remember any of their names.

But with my good troop I remember watching others make s’mores around a campfire and being part of something bigger than myself. I remember watching the stars on one of the rare nights when it wasn’t raining and seeing huge swaths of light in the sky as I was surrounded by girls who accepted me for who I was. Thanks girls, for being shining points of light in my world.

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Sophie and Matilda

When I was growing up, she was my hero. I looked up to her, I wanted to be her, I thought about moving through the world like her. She was awesome. She was a character in a book who could move things in her mind. She was telepathic. I learned that word a good two to eleven years before I learned how to pronounce it correctly.

It was either her or the half-size giant that collected dreams and blew them into children’s bedrooms so they could have the most amazing vision as they slept. The friendly giant who combined nightmares like mixed drinks to tell messages and destroy his foes. He made a friend with a little girl who surprised him at his trade one night. Then he carried her in his ear. HIS EAR. He swiveled it up to sit like a bowl and carried her there back to his home, where he taught her about his different world.

I liked Sophie and her big giant of a friend; I read The BFG so often that my mother had to rebind the book. But my favorite girl in all of literature when I was growing up was Matilda.

Her life was so different than my own. She went to school when I was homeschooled. Her parents were dolts of the n-th degree while mine are some of the most intelligent folks I know. She had an idiot big brother and I have a brilliant little sister.

But I identified with her so well. She loved to read, as I do. She had a few shining examples of amazing teachers, as I do. She was creative, inventive, and a little devious. She didn’t let the bad things in her life affect her way of moving through the world. Even with a horrid household growing up and a cruel bully for an authority figure at school she still remained a thoughtful and considerate individual.

She was my hero. I loved all of Roald Dahl’s books as a child, but Matilda was my favorite.

Imagining Soup

First, you begin with an onion. Cut off the root and the flower ends and then cut in half and peel off the outer layers. Slice longitudinally, holding the pieces together, and then cut across, lengthwise. The last few cuts may be the most difficult. Toss in a stock pot, place on the stove, add some olive oil (extra virgin, what else), and turn on the heat.

Now you are ready to begin making soup.

I cannot imagine what it must feel like to be married to me. I have so many unspoken rules. I have ways of doing things that have seventeen steps. My instructions for putting a pillowcase on a pillow could take a five minute youtube video. I am ridiculous.

The above is what I think when I am chopping an onion. The good news is that I am becoming better at figuring out how to teach without demanding things be done my way. Of course I think that my way is the best… however, that does not necessarily make it true. I have learned to teach, showing how I do it, and then watch my husband create his own way that gets the job done.

If I always assumed that my way was the best, then I would miss out on two very important things.

One, I would never learn a new way of doing something. Can you imagine going through life doing things the exact same way each and every time. To imagine that you got it right the first time and that you knew the perfect way to do it the very first time. That not only is incredibly arrogant, but it would also be boring. I love learning new ways of doing things. I love learning new things. And I love learning from others.

It’s why I love watching children. They try things out. They can try something one way, then come up with a solution diametrically different from the first. Their creative imagination astounds me.

Two, I would never be able to give up a task. See, if I think that my way is best, and there are others who are creative around me, and I think that something has to happen my way, then I would have to maintain control the whole time, never be able to rest, and never respond to the imagination of others. Not only is that exhausting, it is also terribly lonely.

I am continuing to learn from others, especially my husband, about the thousands of ways to get the task done. I move through this world, releasing control and learning about the creativity of others.

I love to cook. I am rather good at creating a new dish from the ingredients in my kitchen with no notice or recipe. It is one of the places where I can create with full liberty. But sometimes I don’t exactly feel like cooking, and so my husband steps in. And for him, rather than standing at his elbow, making sure he does it exactly my way, I allow him to do his thing, and he gets the job done. The soup still tastes delicious.

First, you chop an onion.

Do You?

My parents gave me a jar filled with over six hundred small slips of paper written with conversation and writing prompts. This is the one of my responses:

As a culture, we often focus on things that we do not like about ourselves, either collectively or individually. We are too sedentary. We are too addicted to highly processed fast food. We are too distracted, too plugged in, too concerned with what the next celebrity fad diet is. We are paying too much for health care. We are Just. Too. Busy.

It is too easy to get carried away with what we are too much of. There seems to be no space for rest, no space to get a breath in edgewise among the midst of the chaos around us. The cacophony is full of negative chants and combative murmurs. It is no wonder that we have become more and more reliant on quick fixes that can do more harm than help.

So where do we go in the midst of this? Where can we find a space to breathe? How do we live, never mind hope to thrive in the midst of this distraction? How do we learn to find things we like about ourselves again?

What do I like about myself? The list of what I don’t like is much easier to write. It sometimes gets played on repeat in my head and I cannot shut it off. But to stem the tide of don’t likes: I seek those things that I do like.

I do like my ability to play with just about any kid I come in contact with.

I do like my pastoral instincts of deeply embedded empathy and compassion.

I do like my passion in singing, especially when I pull out all the stops and let the sound fill the room.

I do like my joy, the joy I receive from others, and the joy I have on my own.

I don’t know what your list will look like, but I hope you begin to build one on your own. The more we learn to forgive ourselves and learn to like the parts that are good about ourselves, the more we will be able to like others, and learn to love them as well.

Imagine how we could transform our communities if we learned to notice the things that were good in us first. We seek to be good, we yearn to find health, we long to express love to those around us.* We are hungry for justice just as much as we are hungry for a space to find rest.

I find the more centered I am, the more I am able to share love with others even when I am exhausted. I can only share the gifts I have for compassion and empathy and play when I am not running on less than empty. I find that energy when I can learn to like things about myself, and about those around me. If I am always focused on the negative, then that is all I will ever find. So instead, I seek to find things I like about myself, so that I can love those around me more deeply. Love shines in the darkest nights and draws me closer to my community. Love allows me to find beauty in the world. And that gives me more to like.

Family and The Beach. Two Things I Love.
Family and The Beach. Two Things I Love.

*This is my sister’s theory: “we all long to love.” She claims it belongs to the universe.