Gracefully Truthful

Farah Isbell

Fully Embracing God's Joy

Your name means “JOY”!!! You bring all of us so much joy!!!”

Trouble & Change

Those words can definitely knot the neck, coil the stomach, and crinkle the forehead!
During much of life, Fear and Insecurity have accompanied me, and their friends, Trouble and Change, often seem to join them.

Being passed between divorced parents and multiple caregivers increased the frequency of their visits in my growing up, BUT GOD! (Oh! The peace that phrase can bring to the whole body! But I would need to slowly learn the depth of sweetness contained in those two wonderful words.) 

At age eight, the Lord clearly revealed I could cling to Him for salvation.
Despite my family’s assumptions that I would forget my conversion while away at my dad’s for the summer, and that I was too young to actually understand anything of God, I was finally baptized with eager joy!

When I began to genuinely study the Bible in college, I was mesmerized by the struggles God’s people experienced and was curious when God changed someone’s name, perhaps because my heart silently moaned for God to change my name.

For many years, I believed my name was misspelled and didn’t fit me.

When I was born, there was a famous actress with a similar name and my parents liked it but chose to spell it differently for me. Her name means “beautiful” and so she was! There were two girls at my high school with her spelling and they were beautiful too.

I didn’t feel like I met that criteria in the least! 

I often mistook older men’s expressions when introducing myself, concluding that my self-assessment was correct. I would try to avoid saying my name, but at times it was impossible.  Pseudonyms don’t work with everything like they do when ordering coffee!!  So if they were familiar with the actress, we just had to get through them glazing over and forgetting the task at hand for a moment.

My parents loved that “Farah Ford” was alliterated and carried a “unique” quality. Their names were “extremely common” and they wanted something different. For over 40 years, it was the only thing I was confident they agreed upon since their divorce when I was three years old. This thin alignment between them prevented me from visiting the name change office when I turned 18.

Fast forward to almost ten years ago when I was leaving my pregnant friend’s house after a play date. As we loaded kids in my car, she casually stated she and her husband had found my name in a Baby Names book spelled with only one “r”! Her exclamation of, “We agreed your name fits you so well!”, paralyzed me. 

With Fear and Insecurity still loyally by my side, I slowly asked, “What did the book say it means?”. 

Her reply came quickly, “You don’t know?!?!?!? Your name means “JOY”!!! You bring all of us so much joy!!!”

I quickly, but graciously, thanked her for her kind words before the kids could free themselves. In what seemed like slow motion, I climbed into the car with taunting inner voices reminding me I was “not funny at all”.

On the drive home, it was as if God pulled back the veil of fear-filled wallflower moments to reveal a scrapbook of Him and me together. Times when I had previously believed I was alone were actually times He and I were pouring joy into the world together. Many of them were easy pours, like with one or two friends laughing until our abs hurt, or goofing off with my husband, or playing in the rain with my children.

Most of the scenes God brought to mind were times He and I carried joy smack dab into hard places where the enemy was fighting to stifle it with despair .

As a child, when He and I helped my very elderly grandparents remain connected to their childlikeness until the last days of their lives. As a four-year-old passenger on an airplane, when He and I encouraged the business-woman stranger next to me to relax and play “office” during our flight rather than panic. Her kind voice saying, “I really needed to play today!” was heaped and covered beneath mounds of other fear memories for many years until counseling freed it.

As a Speech-Language Pathologist, when He and I walked into patients’ rooms where the word “stroke” hung heavy over a family or when we worked with attachment and communication between parents and their children, oftentimes with extra special needs, His joy was present.

As God flipped the pages of these memories that day, His voice shook my whole existence, “I don’t have to change your name, Precious Farah, I am The One who named you. Not only that, I am The One who continues to multiply and saturate you with that playfulness and courageous joy in the midst of trouble that makes you you and makes you Mine.” 

Then and there, I repented and praised Him and have been for the last decade! 

At that point, my future eternity, post-death-on-earth, had already been secured by Him for about 32 earthly years dating back to the summer I was eight. However, I hadn’t been living out my present connectedness with Him in light of that eternal reality.

Although I had confessed my sin and allowed Him to embrace me with His salvation, I was not embracing all He had designed for me. I was still listening too much to the world. Even though I wasn’t returning His embrace He had not ceased to hold, to walk with, to pour into, and to eventually change me. His Patient Pursuit is astounding!

My most recent years with God have included journeying with my earthly father through cancer to his death, my step-father’s cancer and hospice, my oldest son leaving for college, and my middle son preparing to do the same, all while homeschooling my youngest daughter. All of it involves Trouble and Change, but oh so much JOY and sweet playfulness with God!

Since 2017, on the @platimebox Instagram, I have been attempting to share a collection of playful ideas for people to join God in play, especially if they are currently in hard seasons.

My prayer for anyone who reads my story is for them to connect to God’s playful side as well as His Wondrous Sovereignty! They may struggle with their name at times, the plan He has them walking out, their location, or some other circumstance, but playful joy is still available!

The world wants us to think God is boring and only serious, but His Way really is more than we could ever ask or imagine; there is treasure from Him to be found in any darkness. Sometimes we may need to feel around for it rather than rely only on what we can see, all while trusting with certainty He has put it there. (Isaiah 45:3, Ephesians 3:20)

Jesus really is the way, the truth, and the LIFE! (John 14:6)
I want others to see and intimately know my LORD and Savior,
Creator and Name-er who gives peace in any and all trouble,
overcomes this world, makes known the path of life;
and in whose Presence is fullness of joy no matter the circumstance!
(2 Thessalonians 3:16, John 16:33, Psalm 16:11)

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