What does Alabaster even mean?!?

9 Sep

Over the last year, I’ve been asked at least a hundred times, “Oh, that’s a *insert polite word for weird* name! Where did you get that?” in response to my youngest’s name, Alabaster. Well, if you, too have been wondering where it came from, you’re about to get your answer. You’re welcome.

We had a slew of names picked for either gender, and naturally once the baby was born, we started trying out all the boy names we had picked. We both really liked Toby. Super short and sweet. The “.” at the end of our family. But, it didn’t seem to fit him. We tried it for a few hours, but it just felt so bizarre to say.

During my pregnancy, I had made a few online radio stations. One for labor, one for the first few hours after birth and one for while I was in my bed for the week afterward. They were all kind of random, but seemed to play the perfect songs. “No Longer Slaves” and “Gracious Tempest” got me through all those contractions (my poor midwives and husband probably never want to hear those songs again!!). Instrumental hymns played as he was weighed and I ate the most delicious grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever experienced (thank you, thank you, thank you, Joanna!!). Then, I had some celebratory type songs to play in my recovery days.  Taking a few cues from my Aunt Kimi, I loaded that playlist with Martha Munizzi, Tasha Cobbs, Israel Houghton, etc. Those are my happy songs, they take me to my happy place. Or, as Tamela Mann says, they “take me to the King”.  Although CeCe Winans was not specifically on this playlist, she kept popping up. And so I would give her the “thumbs down” and move on. She’s just not my jam, frankly. But, then, as I was nursing my sweet new baby, a song from my past came on. It was Cece Winans (although I remember Jill singing it, and much prefer her version instead), and she was singing, “the room grew still, as she made her way to Jesus….”

Music, it speaks to me. It sets the tone for the room. It can say to me what spoken words cannot. When words come through music, I can more tangibly feel the presence of God, and the words go straight to my soul, and speak. When words are spoken, my brain tries to process them, and I lose what was actually being said to me.

As I was listening to Cece belt it out, I decided this was a good story to read as my devotion for the day, since I hadn’t really ever read it in it’s entirety. I turned to Luke and read, “Then one of the Pharisees asked Him to eat with him. And He went to the Pharisee’s house, and sat down to eat.  And behold, a woman in the city who was a sinner, when she knew that Jesus sat at the table in the Pharisee’s house, brought an alabaster flask of fragrant oil, and stood at His feet behind Him weeping; and she began to wash His feet with her tears, and wiped them with the hair of her head; and she kissed His feet and anointed them with the fragrant oil.” (Luke 7:36-38 NKJV)

Well, that was not as enlightening as I had hoped. What was the purpose of this in the Bible anyway?? Oh well, I had a baby to snuggle. I would think about the Bible later.

Every so often, I would call Zach in and suggest a name, or he would pop in and throw one out. Every time, we would instantly react with a very strong, “NO!” After quite a few hours, I was getting very frustrated. By this time, it was the next morning, and our new son had no name. This alone wasn’t a big deal, since we had plenty of time to pick, if we needed it. But, the fact that we seemed to be on polar opposite sides was getting to me. He would say, “What about Asher?!” and I would say, “No… too close to Ashley. And, I know someone with that name…” And I would say, “What about Huxley?!” and he would ask, “well, it’s ok, but what does it mean?” .. “Oh, ‘Hugh’s Meadow’. Nevermind”. We could not get to a happy medium. We had 5 criteria: it had to be unique, preferable that we know no one with the name — it had to go with our last name, so Peter was out– nothing culturally specific, like Jose or Guillermo or Azizi or Baird– no bizarre spelling, Ashley would be spelled as is, not Aashleighe, not my thing — and finally, it had to have a good, strong meaning. We felt when we started this journey of parenthood, that what we named our children would follow them, and we don’t want “devilish child” to be the thing we’ve labeled our child for their life.

He liked old names, Murray or Alfred. I also like old names, but catchier, like McAllister and Frederick. He suggested “Alfred” and I suggested “McAllister” and we made a joke about naming him “Al” since it was the only name we had agreed on in this entire process.

As the joke continued, we started referring to him as “Al”, until we could find a more suitable name. Not realizing it, Cece kept popping up on my playlist, “though she spoke no words, everything she said was heard, as she poured her love for the Master, from her box of….” I decided to read a different version of this story, so I turned to Matthew for his account.

And when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper,  a woman came to Him having an alabaster flask of very costly fragrant oil, and she poured it on His head as He sat at the table. But when His disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this fragrant oil might have been sold for much and given to the poor.”

But when Jesus was aware of it, He said to them, “Why do you trouble the woman? For she has done a good work for Me. For you have the poor with you always, but Me you do not have always.  For in pouring this fragrant oil on My body, she did it for My burial. Assuredly, I say to you, wherever this gospel is preached in the whole world, what this woman has done will also be told as a memorial to her.” (Matthew 26:6-13 NKJV)

Oddly, this version spoke to me a little more. As I prayed about it, I found some parallel in my life. You see, I didn’t graduate college, I am not a missionary nor a minister, I don’t work outside of the home, I am ‘lowly’ in human terms; I’m just a mom. This woman, too, was lowly. She was a sinner, just like me, and had very little to offer. But, she took her alabaster flask, filled with the only worth (monetary) that she had, and she offered it to Jesus. I too, wanted that. To take the things of value that I have, and offer them to Him. But, we don’t own anything of worth. The only thing(s) I have to offer, are my children. They are literally the most precious things I have.

When people found out I was pregnant with Vivienne, we got many comments like, “another one?!” and “don’t you know how this happens?” and it was very offensive to me. That somehow, the life of my child was an inconvenience to them. So, when we found out that we were expecting a fifth (!!!) baby, we kept to ourselves. Although I was honored to be holding life inside of me, that God had placed there, I was embarrassed and ashamed that “we were having another baby”.  It was silly and foolish to think that way, I see now. But while it was happening, I just didn’t want to deal with the comments. I saw the likeness of the woman and myself in this part, too. “Why do you trouble the woman? She has done a good work for me.” Why did people comment about the size of our family? It doesn’t affect them at all. I was doing it for God. Because it’s what He has asked of our family.

I really started praying and seeking the Lord’s wisdom on this. What was the take-away?

Alabaster. I kind of liked it. No, I really loved it. Here came the test.

“Zach!?”

He popped his head in the room. “Yes? Do you need something?”

“What about Alabaster? You know, for the baby’s name…”

“OH! Alabaster! Like Mary’s alabaster jar! Yeah. I’m going to pray about it, but I really love it.” HE LOVED IT! Sold. I threw in for good measure, “We can even call him, “Al”!” We both laughed. (We do not call him Al, for those wondering.)

He came back a while later and said, “I do really love it, but, what does it mean?”

I answered honestly, “Well, I’m not really sure. I couldn’t find a meaning, because it’s like ‘Rose’. It doesn’t have a meaning it’s just ‘Rose, like the flower’ … but, to me, it means, Alabaster: my vessel of offering; the most precious thing I have to give; the gift to God that I’m willing to flush in shame for and listen to the scoffers about and present my gift anyway, because it’s mine and of greatest value and what’s been asked of me.  Alabaster: precious vessel of holy offering That’s what it means.”

He answered in the most perfect way, “Alabaster Norman, then? Call Jeanne and tell her for the birth certificate.” So, I did. And when I told her what we were naming him she said, “Well, I didn’t expect Joe, but I’ve never heard this one before! Where did it come from?!” And she said it in the most kind way, because that’s how Jeanne says everything, kindly. She even tells you to “eat the food or else” kindly. Ask me how I know. *wink* So I told her. And we cried together and agreed it was perfect.

So, there you have it. Alabaster got his name from God. Because he is my precious vessel of holy offering.

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Alabaster Norman Newborn
Photo Credit: Precious Faith Photography

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Alabaster Norman 6 months
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Peterson

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Alabaster Norman 1 year
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Peterson

 

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