How To Write About Family

Bronwyn Lea recently wrote about the dilemma of naming names when it comes to writing about family. Do we use real names? Aliases? What about using no names at all, just general referents such as wife, daughter, son?

I have decided that this decision is beyond me, so I turn to all of you for help in choosing from the options I’ve come up with for my wife, children and me. Your job is to sift through the choices and vote on the best.

The only problem is I’ve forgotten which sets of options go with which family member* so I really do need your help. Tell me in the comments if you have discerned who goes with which options, and what they reveal about that person.

Noms de Blog

First Family Member:

  1. Boadicea
  2. Albert Schweitzer
  3. Mulan

Second Family Member:

  1. Eleanor Roosevelt
  2. Molly Pitcher
  3. The Terminator

Third Family Member:

  1. Cool Hand Luke
  2. Secret Agent Man
  3. Deborah

Fourth Family Member (n.b. – for this person choose no more than two names from each option):

  1. Rosencrantz and/or Guildenstern
  2. Tweedledum and/or Tweedledee
  3. Lenny and/or Squiggy

Feel free to suggest your own names. You can’t do worse than I did. Also, each pseudonym really does reveal a trait for the family member. Bonus points to anyone who can figure out what they are.

Names Mean Something

God has many names in the Bible and they all reveal aspects of his character. Lord Provider, God Almighty, Lord of Hosts, Great Shepherd, Savior, King, Servant, Father, Spirit, Son, I Am.

One of God’s names in particular stands out to me for how he came to be known by it.

In Genesis 16 we read of Hagar, a servant of Sarah and Abraham. Sarah – who is barren – tells Abraham to take Hagar as a surrogate wife to bear him a son and heir. Yet as soon as Hagar is pregnant Sarah becomes bitter and resentful and mistreats Hagar so badly that she runs off into the desert knowing it will most likely mean death for her and the child she bears.

God has other plans for Hagar and her child.

Then the angel of the Lord told her, “Go back to your mistress and submit to her.” The angel added, “I will increase your descendants so much that they will be too numerous to count.”

She gave this name to the Lord who spoke to her: “You are the God who sees me,” for she said, “I have now seen the One who sees me.” (Genesis 16:9-10, 13.)

The phrase “the God who sees me” comes across as more than a mere response to God coming into her life. She is naming an aspect of God’s character. And God continues to watch over her and her son as the years go by and the generations pass. (See Genesis 21 and 25.)

So what is it about this name of God that stands out to me? There are two reasons. This appears to be the first time someone in the Bible ascribes a descriptive name to God, and it is given by a woman. Names can mean something and this one means much.

Which makes me grateful for Hagar’s place in God’s kingdom. After all, we are all subject to the God who sees us, and we can all call upon God by the name she gave him: The God Who Sees Me.

***

*Don’t worry that you might not know a thing about me or my family.** Stabs in the dark are just as welcome.

**Then again, you might be able to discern which options go with which person if you keep in mind that my family consists of my wife, our son and daughter who are each in their early twenties, and me.

 ***

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14 Responses to How To Write About Family

  1. Jeannie says:

    Tim, thanks for the laugh today — I needed that! And the message is serious too, of course. My mother is ill right now and mentally confused, and we were visiting her the other day. She looked at my brother and said, “Now, he looks like the sign of the promised land.” It was so strange but so funny and he said he was going to start calling himself Sign, or possibly Moze (short for Moses). Tears and laughter are never too far apart! I’m so glad God sees & knows us whatever state we are in.

    • Tim says:

      Thanks for sharing that blessing of your family, Jeannie, and how you all care for and laugh with each other. I am praying for your mother and the rest of the family.

  2. When I started my blog about my husband’s dementia in 2008, people used phone books, and I did identify the town we lived in. My first Google name was NewKidontheBlogg and then Google decided to connect me to Carol Noren Johnson. People could look up our address with his first name in the phone book, so I decided to call him (as I did often in person) “Sweetheart”. On that blog I did also used hubby, husband and DH. “DH” is maybe a term from Flylady–not sure–that stands for Dear Husband I believe.

    • Tim says:

      DH and DW, along with DS and DD, are initials I became familiar with over at pemberley.com, a Jane Austen discussion site. Your use of Sweetheart since it was what you already called him sounds perfect to me too.

  3. Bronwyn Lea says:

    I love the naming options for your family 🙂 so funny. And I love too, the Hagar story, which never fails to encourage me that God doesn’t just have his eye on those we think are “promised” and “chosen” (wrongfully insecure as we are)… But in fact he cared for, SAW and sought relationship with the one who was unchosen and hiding. We are never beyond his mercy, or out of his sight. Thanks for this today.

  4. Adriana says:

    You’re funny. 🙂

    But seriously, I’ve thought of this too. What aliases to use for my clan of seven? My husband could be Cowboy, I guess. When I try to think of extra names for everyone else I get sort of confused. It’s hard enough to keep their actual names straight in real life! For now it’s just the generic “son” & daughter,” but I suppose it would create more clarity and expand my opportunities for story telling if I renamed everyone.

    Let us know what names you chose for the fam!

    • Tim says:

      I have it much easier than you, Adriana. I only have one of each so I could easily just stick with Wife, Son and Daughter. Collectively they’d be referred to as WSD.

  5. caramac54 says:

    Yes! I’ve morphed (as you know) into mostly using “The HBH” and “Cancan” when writing on the blog, even though that wasn’t originally the case. But as the blog grows, I want to respect their privacy, and it’ll even be interesting to see how much I write about them (especially the kids) as they grow up. I don’t want to disrespect their need for autonomy. ps: I do look forward to seeing how you incorporate these potential new names into posts if you end up writing about them!

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