That’s My Name (Don’t Wear It Out)

I marked my 43rd birthday this past week. No birthday cake this time, which was more than fine, since we had not one but TWO left-over cakes from the Cub Scout Father/Son bake-off of the same week. {We have 2 sons; thus, we submitted 2 cakes to the contest, with lots of green icing representing grass.} For my 11th birthday, I requested a cake with peanut butter and jelly icing–and that’s exactly what I got, a plain yellow cake with a mixture of peanut butter and Mama’s homemade jelly smeared over the top and sides. Delightful!

Unlike other holidays, birthdays represent a time when we celebrate an individual. We hear people refer to MY birthday but rarely to MY Thanksgiving or MY Flag Day. (That’s in June, in case you were wondering.) My friend Pam sent me a birthday greeting telling me she was glad I was born. On my birthday, she was thankful for ME. For who I am.


And who I am is Allison. When I was 10, I arrived late to the first day of Vacation Bible School. Our teacher had made name tags for us on colorful construction paper cut in the shapes of balloons. But instead of simply penning our names on the paper, she jumbled up the letters. We needed to puzzle out our names before finding the appropriate name tag.

When I arrived that morning, I saw only a few name tag balloons remaining. The one obviously intended to be mine was misspelled–it had only one L. Although I inwardly fumed over this, I quietly took the balloon and sat down.

People have been misspelling my name for as long as I can remember, and it’s an honest mistake. There are multiple varieties of “Allison.” Earlier this year, a cashier asked my name, and after I told her, she asked if I spelled it A-L-I-C-E-N. As a little girl, I sometimes got called “Alice in Wonderland,” which made me even more irate than the one-L spelling. Her name is ALICE, not ALLISON, I would insist. A neighbor in the dorm where I lived during my second year of college left a message to my roommate and me on the dry-erase board on our door; she wrote my name as Ellison.


Then there were people who seemed entirely unfamiliar with my name. A girl in 6th grade called me “Allen” once. People in Romania sometimes thought I had a boy’s name–it DOES end in the word “son,” and English wasn’t their first language, after all. This week, I got a receipt in the mail, and in the “received from” field was written the name Alton. Alton?!  I mean, that IS a boy’s name.

As you can see, I’ve dealt with a bit of angst over my name over the years, although I have relaxed about it considerably. Even the “Alton” just makes me chuckle.

On Christmas Eve, on our way to Mississippi, we stopped at a gargantuan Bass Pro Shop at the edge of Alabama to give our boys a treat (and a chance for us all to stretch our legs). Wandering around while they perused fishing lures, I spotted a display of charm bracelets featuring names. I found several with my own name on them. I didn’t wish to buy one, but I was struck by the fact that each of these bracelets held the spelling of MY version of Allison. In lavender, orchid, and navy blue.

Others may get my name wrong (even in mail that arrives on my birthday); some may spell it in such a way that I wouldn’t even recognize it as belonging to me. But Jesus, the One whom John Wesley calls the Lover of my soul, knows my name; He knows ME. On my birthday and every day.

The gatekeeper opens the gate for him [the shepherd], and the sheep listen to his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.  John 10:3


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