This week we’re trying something new, with a video review from Cathy of the book “Soul Food for Mums*“, by Lucinda van der Hart and Anna France-Williams. Check out the review below, and tell us what you think.
It’s a big decision isn’t it. After all, they’re going to be stuck with whatever name you give them for the whole of their lives. It’s one thing that you’ll do for your child that you know will have lifelong significance.
As Cathy and I chose Boaz’s name (and Reuben’s, for that matter) we felt this weight of responsibility.
So how do you go about picking a name for a child? Here are some ideas if you’re looking for a name, or just some thoughts if you’re interested in the topic.
It seems to us that there are a few different factors that can play into the choice.
The Accent Test
If you saw our recent thank you video, you may have spotted Scott’s regional accent (it’s hard to miss). Cathy has a generic but mild northern English accent, but Scott’s is a fairly broad Hartlepool accent. His accent means that various vowel sounds are… let’s say unusual. As such, Cathy requires all potential names to go through the “Scott’s accent test”. Many lovely names have hit the cutting room floor after this ruthless test!
When choosing names, some go for what’s popular at the time. In case you’re interested, here are the top 10 most popular boys names in the UK in 2016 so far:
Yes you read that correctly – number 6 is Arlo! We’ve literally never even heard of that name. We must be living in a bubble.
The top 10 UK girls names in 2016 so far, if you were wondering, are:
So popularity is one way to go when picking a name. Others go to the other extreme and try to go for something obscure. It’s a way of ensuring there won’t be 10 other children in the playground with the same name as your little one.
There are other options too. Family names. We’ve gone for this with middle names. Reuben’s middle name is George, after Cathy’s dad’s middle name. Boaz’s is Henry after Scott’s late Grandfather’s middle name.
We think it’s lovely for our children to have a sense of rootedness and connection to their biological family. Obviously their surname naturally does this, but we liked including a Christian family name too. Inheriting the surname is inevitable, but choosing to give your child the name of a family member can be a touching gesture for the family member you’ve chosen and for those who are closest to them.
Some friends of ours have chosen to include a virtue as one of their children’s names for each of their three children. We think this is a lovely idea. To take a virtue that you’d love for your child to display or to appreciate and make it part of their name is great idea. So our friends have ‘Joy’, ‘Hope’ and ‘Mercy’ as part of their children’s names. There’s so many more you could go for…
The Name’s Meaning
Another popular option for choosing your children’s names is to base it on the meaning of the name. This was how Cathy received her name. Cathy’s mum had a difficult pregnancy with Cathy, almost losing her and having to have a lot of bed rest. All babies are precious, but of course this heightened Cathy’s parent’s sense of how precious she was to them. As such they gave her the name “Catherine Amy”, meaning “beloved and precious” (although google says it means “pure”).
Our Name Choices
As we’ve already mentioned, we chose for our boys to have family names as their middle names.
But for their first names we decided to go for names of people from the Bible.
How did we choose which characters to go for?
Well it was partly people with names we liked – but that’s a given.
Beyond that though, we looked for two things. We looked for people with character traits that we hoped our boys would emulate. And we looked for people who pointed to Jesus in a way that made our hearts sing.
Why We Chose The Name Reuben
Reuben was by no means perfect – I’m sure you’ll realise that if you’ve read his story in Genesis.
But there are a couple of things we really liked about him that led to us choosing his name. The first is that he’s the eldest brother of the children of Jacob. We’re certainly not planning to have 12 boys (though watch this space!) but when we had Reuben we did hope to have more children, so we hoped that Reuben would one day be an eldest brother.
But not just any eldest brother.
Do you remember that tense moment near the beginning of the story of Joseph? The moment when the brothers were jealous of Joseph because of his special coat from his father and the dreams he’d been having? Here’s what they were plotting:
“‘Here comes that dreamer!’ they said to each other.‘Come now, let’s kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we’ll see what comes of his dreams.’”
Well we often forget why this plot was foiled. It was foiled because of Joseph’s protective older brother, Reuben:
“When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. ‘Let’s not take his life,’ he said.‘Don’t shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the wilderness, but don’t lay a hand on him.’ Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.”
Reuben had just as many reasons to be jealous of and angry towards Joseph as the others. But as a protective older brother he stood up for his younger brother, shielding him. We pray that our Reuben may well be the same – willing to lay aside his claim to getting what he feels he deserves when his siblings wrong him – willing to stand up for his siblings (and others around him) even when they don’t deserve it. Willing to control his anger and desire for revenge, willing to absorb that hurt in himself for the good of others, and willing to forgive those who wrong him.
And of course this beautifully reminds us of Jesus – the one who went to the greatest lengths to rescue us. In our sin we have wronged Jesus far more than Joseph had wronged Reuben. Despite this, Jesus did all that was necessary to protect us from the far more just punishment that was coming our way. Jesus actually took our place. Jesus, the true older brother, died in our place so that he could rescue us and take us back to our Father. How wonderful!
Why We Chose The Name Boaz
Boaz is a really wonderful character. The story of Boaz is found in the book of Ruth – an ancient book set in a world very different from ours.
Boaz is a man of integrity. Ruth is a poor, defenceless widow who is vulnerable and desperate. In a world where women in positions like Ruth’s were very often exploited and mistreated, Boaz did the very opposite. He chose to care for and graciously provide for Ruth. Despite the fact she was not one of his people and was effectively an environmental refugee, despite the fact that she had nothing to offer Boaz, he lavishly provided for her and redeemed her.
We would love Boaz to emulate this. We live in a world where it’s so easy to care about yourself at the expense of others: to look down on those in need; to disparage the plight of the refugee; to make consumer choices that exploit the poorest and most needy. We pray that Boaz won’t just do the easy thing. We pray that, like his namesake, he will stand out from the crowd by fighting for the most needy in this world. We pray that he would seek to protect the vulnerable, to stand against injustice and to honour those who most will dishonour.
And once again, what’s most wonderful about Boaz is not his achievements and character, but the achievements and the character of the one he points us to. We, like Ruth, were in a desperate plight – in need of a redeemer who would lift us out of the poverty of our sin. We needed a protector and provider when we’re not just spiritually vulnerable, but spiritually bankrupt. And that’s exactly what Jesus, the great, great, great… great grandson of Boaz did. Jesus is the true and better Boaz who will never exploit the needy, but instead allowed himself to be exploited for our sake’s.
So there we have it. What names did you choose for your children, and why? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.
P.S. We recently got Reuben and Boaz dedicated – if you’d like to listen to the talk about how Jesus is the true and better Boaz then click here.
It’s that time again – we are in the middle of our course of antenatal classes. Love them or hate them, they are a part of the preparation that many parents go through in anticipation of the birth of their new baby.
Back when Reuben was brewing in Cathy’s tummy, Scott was blogging elsewhere and he wrote a post on his experience of the antenatal class that we attended. As we’re away on holiday this week, we thought we’d re-post it here with light editing, for your enjoyment!
Today Cathy and I went to our first antenatal class – it was all about breastfeeding
A number of things struck me. One was how awkward it can be to walk in to a room full of people you don’t know. As we crossed the circle of shame and sat facing roughly 15 people shifting nervously in their seats, no one breaking the deafening silence, I didn’t quite know what to do with myself. We got a slight peek into the cracks of a fractured humanity there in the antenatal day room.
Many walk in to church or a seeker Bible study for the first time and no doubt share some of my apprehension – but for them it’s coupled with a greater fear of the unknown than we experience – what will these crazy religious people do, now that we’re in a room that they’re in charge of? We need to do all that we can to make that initial impression better than ours was today.
That was a negative observation. But what was more striking was how clever, as they suggested, “Mother Nature” apparently is. Here are some facts we learned:
When breastfeeding, some of the calcium stores in the mother’s bones are taken to feed to the baby and strengthen his bones. Bad news? Well no, actually. After breastfeeding these Calcium stores are not only replenished but actually made greater, reducing the risk of osteoperosis in old age.
Breastfeeding has been proven to greatly reduce the mother’s risk of pre-menopausal breast cancer.
In breast milk, the antibodies that the mother has built up through her lifetime as she’s fought off various infections are passed to the baby, thus building his immunity and protecting him.
Here’s a fascinating fact. Immediately after the baby is born, ‘skin-to-skin’ contact is encouraged, where the baby is placed straight onto the mother’s tummy. I find that slightly gross, to be honest. What’s astonishing though is that the mother’s thermoregulatory system (internal thermostat) will adjust the temperature of her tummy by +/- 1 degree to warm or cool the baby, as needed. Isn’t that cool (or warm!)? Even though the baby is now external to the mother, the altruistic body serves the baby regardless of what the mother needs. (A small picture of our Father?).
Just after this aforementioned skin-to-skin contact, the baby will naturally seek food from the mother. To do this, it performs this crazy crawl (crazy given how young this 5 minute old person is!) to reach the milk. Youtube it – it’s almost unbelievable!
Here’s a thought. Could it be that it’s not Mother Nature coming in from the land of tooth fairies and Santa Claus that makes all these things possible. Perhaps it’s God, who has revealed himself time and again in history to be outrageously good and supremely wise, who has fashioned us in this way?
“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. How precious to me are your thoughts,God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand— when I awake, I am still with you.”
We hope you enjoyed that little thought from the past. We know that for various reasons not everybody chooses to or is able to breastfeed, and there’s not necessarily a right and wrong way here. We actually used a combination of formula and breastfeeding. Still, regardless of how your baby is/was fed, these facts are still pretty extraordinary so we thought it worth sharing anyway.
It has a lot to answer for. The nesting instinct is the reason Cathy decided to scrub the grout of the shower with a toothbrush when 38 weeks pregnant with Reuben – a ridiculous urge (what baby inspects grout?!) and very un-Cathy-like!
What is nesting? It’s the strong desire to prepare your home for the arrival of a newborn baby, including decorating, cleaning and reorganising.
Now that the nesting instinct has hit us again, we’ve been beavering away decorating Reuben’s big boy bedroom, the little one’s nursery, and we’ve got plans for the play room too.
For Scott (who enjoys DIY and a thorough sort-out) the desire to nest comes from the sensible reasoning that, with the arrival of a newborn, it is impossible to keep a vaguely tidy house never mind attempt DIY! So, let’s get it out the way now.
Cathy, on the other hand, is finding that she is waking up in the middle of the night and devising never ending to-do lists: “buy fabric for curtains; paint the chest of drawers; clear out unwanted stuff for the charity shop; stock up on new-born nappies; check we’ve got all the sections of the breast pump…” the list goes on and on. Are hormones responsible? Most probably!
You couldn’t normally accuse us of being overly organised, tidy or house proud. Don’t believe us? Just look through the glass in the front door and see the shoe-strewn floor, paperwork-littered sideboard and assortment of toys, nappy wipes and the nearly dead plant.
But getting things ready for our new arrival is really exciting. We can’t wait to meet our little one, and as sentimental as it sounds we want everything to be just right for his/her arrival. We thought the instinct to nest might not be so strong second time round, but we’re finding it’s even stronger! Even though our home will look like a bomb has hit it a few hours after the baby moves in, the desire to create a lovely place to welcome our new child into is very strong. Where does this instinct come from?
“The opening chapters of the Bible describe God creating the universe. Just like a parent meticulously preparing a nursery with mobiles and furniture and murals, God hung the stars in the sky, sculpted the mountains and rivers and brought the landscape alive by adding birds and fish. Everything was ready. The world contained all that a beloved son or daughter could possibly need. The only thing missing was the child. So God creates human beings to enjoy all that he has prepared for them.”
It’s a wonderful picture of creation.
How often do we think about the fact that God harnessed his creative power and channelled it into creating a perfect habitat for us – humanity? God sees us as the crown of creation. God wasn’t only making a universe to display his power, but he was lovingly making a home for us – his people, his children. It’s pretty mind-boggling to think about.
Much of our behavior in nesting is normal (perhaps not the toothbrush incident…). It’s part of what it means to love our children. We haven’t met little miss/master Thomson yet, but we already love them. We prepare a room, a bed, a play space for them out of love, anticipation and excitement. We image God in creation.
So if you are awaiting your own new arrival, then as you prepare your home for your little bundle, remember that you image our God who in creation was, in a way, nesting for us. How loved we are!
Jesus is Nesting
But here’s another wonderful truth. There’s a sense that God hasn’t stopped nesting. He’s still doing it today.
You see, shortly after creation, God’s children broke his heart and decided to live in rebellion against him. The people that he made started to destroy the beautiful home that he had made for them. They started to destroy each other. They even destroyed themselves. Sin ravaged creation and left it bleeding and broken.
But the story didn’t end there.
God decided to rescue and redeem the people that had rejected him. And more than that, he decided to rescue and redeem the creation that he made for his people. How? Through the amazing life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
“15 The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.16 For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on
earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him.17 He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.18 And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.19 For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross”.
Jesus has reconciled a people to himself, and is reconciling all things to himself. The blood of Jesus is effective not just in dealing with sin (though it wonderfully does that!), but in bringing restoration to the whole of the creation that he has made.
One day that work will be complete. Here’s what Jesus promises:
“ ‘Do not let your hearts be troubled. You believe in God, believe also in me.2 My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you?3 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am.4 You know the way to the place where I am going.’”
Right now, Jesus lovingly prepares a place for his people. He’s nesting. He gets the rooms ready for us to move into. He waits for us with anticipation and excitement. He can’t wait to welcome us into his father’s house. To welcome us into the family home.
So, as we nest for our baby, we image Jesus and remember how much more wonderfully he does it for us.
As we eagerly anticipate the arrival of our little one into our home, we pray that this would remind us of Jesus, the one who created our earthly home, who prepares our heavenly home, and who draws up the architect plans for the new creation – our eternal home. What amazing love he has for us!
If you know us, or have read this blog before, you’ll know that we’re expecting our second child in August.
If you’ve had children of your own, or even had friends or relatives who’ve had children, you’ll know how exciting the countdown to the new arrival is. Thinking about this new baby often occupies your thoughts. What will they look like? Will it be a boy or girl? What will their personalities be like? When will they come? “Expecting” is exactly the right word to use.
Recently we’ve been reflecting on this time of waiting and have been struck by the echoes of the gospel that resound. As we said in our “Gospel In The Everyday” introductory post, we shouldn’t be surprised to see something of the truth of who God is in the world he’s created and in the rhythms and patterns of the world, all of which speak of his glory. We’re excited about how God, in his grace, has been using this time that we’ve been expecting to remind us of something of the gospel. We hope you’ll be encouraged too.
When Is He Coming?
In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul writes to a church who seem to be in a bit of confusion about the return of Jesus. He writes to them to urge them to be aware that Jesus will return, and to stay alert to this reality as they go about life, as the exact date and time of his return is unknown.
To help them get their heads round it, Paul uses two illustrations. He describes Jesus’ return as being like a thief in the night. The point is clear. If we knew exactly when a thief was going to come, then it wouldn’t be a surprise. We wouldn’t be sleeping and allow them to just stroll in and steal. But the fact is, we don’t know when a thief will come. It’s a shock to us. Just like Jesus’ return.
Then he uses an unexpected illustration. He talks about Jesus’ return coming suddenly, like labour pains come to a woman. (Paul uses this illustration negatively – it’s a warning to those who don’t know Jesus. But hopefully you’ll see that this illustration can be helpful to Christians too.)
Now, we always thought this illustration a little odd. You see we do know, don’t we, when a baby is coming? 9 months gestation, and all of that?
Well yes, but we don’t know exactly when.
We know that the baby will come, but the exact date and time is a complete mystery (unless you have an elective C-Section of course… but that wasn’t a possibility when Paul was writing!). If you’re a parent you’ll remember that all too well – those days in the run up to the due date when you were itching for it to happen – itching to know when you’d finally meet your precious little one. Crossing the days off the calendar, knowing it will be soon, but just not sure when. And then suddenly, seemingly out of the blue, the waters break and it’s happening.
Now do you see Paul’s point? That’s just the place we’re in as Christians. We know Jesus will return. We eagerly anticipate that date. But when exactly that date will be is a mystery.
The Greater Meeting
So, as we wait expectantly to meet little miss/master Thomson, we want to use the sense of anticipation and expectancy to remind us of an even greater meeting to come that we’re also waiting for. We know with certainty that that day will one day come when Jesus will return. When exactly will that will be, we don’t know. But it will come. We will one day see him face to face. And so, as Paul goes on to urge the Thessalonians, we want to live in the light of that wonderful and certain future reality.
If you’re expecting then next time you find yourself eagerly anticipating the arrival of your little one, why not let that prompt you to ponder the reality of the coming return of Jesus? Do you know a Christian who is expecting? Maybe you could point them to this post as a helpful reminder to them of the gospel in the everyday?
The birthing experience is really important, isn’t it? We spend lots of time and money on antenatal classes and books before the big day arrives. We write our birth plans. We pack and repack our hospital bags. We wonder what the birth will be like with mixed emotions – excitement and apprehension! For some of us it’s a wonderful experience of near magical proportions, for others it’s horrendous, for others it’s dangerous and life-threatening. But no matter what our birthing experience is like, there’s something about giving birth that unites us women together. To have gone through it and to have come out the other end with a gory story gets you in the club!
But for many women in the world the experience is filled with much more fear and anxiety. Many women lack the care and health services that we so often take for granted in the West.
Every day, approximately 830 women die from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
99% of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
Maternal mortality is higher in women living in rural areas and among poorer communities.
The sad fact is that with skilled care before, during and after childbirth, the lives of these women and newborn babies could have been saved.
There’s a great charity which helps to tackle this. They’ve come up with a brilliant idea. You can twin your pregnancy with a pregnancy of a woman in Malawi (Malawi is one of the poorest countries in the world, and a woman in Malawi is 60 times more likely to die having a baby than a woman in the UK). It costs just £40 (that’s £1 for each week of your pregnancy) to support a women and her baby to have a safe delivery. After the baby has been born you even get a photo of the mum and baby to see who you’ve directly helped to have a positive and safe birth experience. As well as that they give you the exact GPS coordinates of where in the world your birthing twin is. Pretty cool!
Giving birth in a hospital maternity unit costs the NHS £1,631. Then on top of that is the cost of health visitors, breast-feeding support workers and Children’s Centres to give support and guidance throughout the early years. These services are free to access, although paid for by taxpayers, and all those staff and resources must add up!
Contrast that with a one-off gift of £40. It’s great value for money. For your gift of £40, the mum-to-be receives: “transport to a health clinic for antenatal check-up; pregnancy advice, emotional support and a listening ear from a local Mother Buddy with a total of 8 visits (3 during pregnancy, 3 in the first week of delivery and 2 follow-up visits); the opportunity to give birth safely at a clinic rather than at home; visits for six months after the birth to give advice on nutrition, hygiene and staying healthy; and help with accessing ARV treatment if she is living with HIV, making sure that her baby is born HIV free.”
Check out this video to find out a bit more:
Listen to this testimony of a mum who was helped by Pregnancy Twinning:
“My Mother Buddy advised me to go to antenatal classes, which I didn’t know about before, and to get treatment for HIV. I was keen to follow her advice and my baby was born HIV negative! We did not know that this was possible, or that an HIV positive mother can breastfeed. She advised me on cooking nutritious meals for my family too. This programme needs to continue and expand so that it can reach other pregnant women in other villages.”
We think it’s a fantastic charity, and so we wanted to raise awareness on here with a few ideas for how you might support it. Here are a few suggestions:
If you’re pregnant, why not twin your pregnancy?
If your friend or relative is pregnant why don’t you twin their pregnancy for them, as a gift?
Perhaps you could organise a friend’s baby-shower? Ask each guest to donate £4, and use the donations to support a woman and baby to have a safe labour. With just 10 guests, the pregnancy would be twinned. A birth experience would be transformed. Lives could be saved.
We decided to twin my pregnancy. It’s exciting knowing that there’s another woman across the world with roughly the same due date as me. I’ll be keeping her in my thoughts and prayers as D-day approaches. I can’t wait to get my photo to see what mum and baby look like – to think that we were able to help them is pretty cool!
If you’re reading this blog and currently pregnant… all the best for the big day!
In August we’re expecting the birth of our new baby. We’re so excited and thankful to God.
And yet we grieve the two babies that we lost through miscarriage.
We were meant to have a baby this month. He/she(?) was due around now. We had a couple of scans. One week we saw our baby with a beating heart, the next week we saw our baby and their heart was still.
We’re sorry we never got the chance to meet you, precious one.
We don’t understand why it happened.
We miss you. We remember you. We love you.
“See, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind. But be glad and rejoice for ever in what I will create,
for I will create Jerusalem to be a delight and its people a joy.
I will rejoice over Jerusalem and take delight in my people; the sound of weeping and of crying will be heard in it no more. ‘Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days”