Friday, September 2, 2011

Remember when September meant a fresh start? We can close our eyes and practically smell a brand new box of crayons, along with anticipation of old friends, new friends, any friends at all, a good teacher and maybe better study habits and grades this year! Looking back, I don’t recall the grade Mr. Becker gave me in math or my grade point at New Trier High School, but I do think of lessons learned and how they impact my life today.

After 20 years and 1400 “Woman to Woman” radio shows, I’m beginning a new chapter of my life. I do NOT have a specific agenda or plan for my “fresh start” this September. I do know how God designed me to function best with the gifts He gave me. I expect to write, speak and network for Him. There’s no contract to sign, no paycheck for direct deposit anymore! But there is anticipation of lessons to be learned and shared. Anticipation is half the fun!

In this new chapter, I figured I should call myself something and order business cards. I landed on the moniker; "Phyllis Now!" That’s quite a change for me since my school days when I wished for a different name. I mean, think about it, Phyllis. What can you do with that? I wanted something cute like Sally or Molly or DeDe or sophisticated like Anne or warm and bright, like Jennifer. But no, Phyllis it was and that was that. Nicknames were limited to Phyl. While I was proud of my last name, Muhlenbruch, no one could spell either name and it was quite a handle for life. In undergraduate school at the U of IL, I once received a letter addressed to Phillip Mulchinbaum, to join the ROTC! People murdered my name. My closest friends could call me Millis Phulenbruch, instead of Phyllis Muhlenbruch, and my godmother tried lightening up by turning my initials PEM into Pemme! None of that lifted the burden of being called Phyllis. You’ll notice in the 21st C approximately 2 girls being named Phyllis, and that may be an exaggeration.

What to do with a name you don’t particularly like? My dad sympathized and told me about a fellow named John Schliterbatz who detested his name and went to court about it. “I want to change my name, Your Honor,” he said. The judge indicated that would be possible, explained the procedure and asked what name John preferred for the change. “JIM Schliterbatz,” came the reply! I laughed over John and Jim, but “Phyllis?” Not so much!

Finally, in college, I learned that Phyllis is Greek for “green bough.” While I didn’t ask people to call me GB for short, it did make me like the name a little more. And then when I fell in love with Ps 1, the name Phyllis grew on me. Here’s the section that made my name come to life. Remember, “He” means he or she, as in a person. “Blessed is the one whose "delight is in the law of the Lord, and on His law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers." Psalm 1:2-3 (NIV)

Do you see what I saw? Or as my friend, Pastor Bill Yonkers says, “I tell you that …to tell you this…” all of a sudden it hit me. I want to be THAT kind of woman. I want my green bough, my very life, to stay supple and nourished by the Lord like a tree planted by a stream so it bears fruit. In the fall I want to be colorful and though I may lose my leaves for a season in life, I won’t dry up. “Phyllis” became a beautiful name for me. I thanked my parents who were so happy I liked it at last!

And that brings me to Phyllis Now…which is what I’m calling myself in this new chapter of my life. What about you? This fall what’s your fresh start? Going back to school yourself or vicariously through your kids or grandkids? With or without school, there’s plenty of learning left, as long as you have life and breath. In the Book of Proverbs, God makes it clear that it is to our advantage, here and now and for eternity, to seek His wisdom. “Blessed is the person who finds wisdom, the one who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold, more precious than rubies. Nothing you desire can compare with her!” You may not need wisdom for your name that leaves you stuck, like mine did. But whatever has you stuck,” God pulls alongside to help you learn the lesson and pass it on. Because you’re not in this alone.

Have a great weekend, resting from your labors and delighting in the Lord!

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