Making the most of the name we've been given

This morning in church, a wide variety of facets were part of the service, including a goodbye to our 20-month interim, Pastor Wayne, who has served the church selflessly over that period.

He was honored at a dinner after a message about new beginnings — quite fitting given his and our circumstances.

But another part of the service that really stood out to me as something meaningful was the dedication of several of our church family's children — from newborn babies to a 13-year-old young woman.

At the ceremony, Children's Ministries Director Karissa Spencer blessed the parents and children being dedicated as a group, then gave a blessing to each specific child after discussing the meaning of the child's name.

In the church's history, there is a lot to say about what's in a name, as Biblical names often reflected the lives that the individuals led.

It's fun to look into what our names mean, and at times, it's quite a nice to know, although there are exceptions.

For example, look up the word origin of the name Jacob; they're not always sunshine and roses!

It really was a joy to be a witness to the dedication ceremony, as it was a reminder of how blessed we are to have so much youthfulness in the church!

Any group should count itself blessed to have children among its numbers, because children help keep us young, both literally and figuratively.

While to many, the sound of a baby fussing or crying can come across as a bad thing, a church should feel blessed to hear such a noise. It is a reminder of the miracle in its presence.

After the recognition lunch for Pastor Wayne, though, I took another trip to another church — the one I grew up in — for another kind of goodbye — the viewing for a woman I've known and respected my entire life.

Judy Reiter has long been a part of my life, and my earliest memories of her include her asking my brother and I to serve as acolytes for the weekly church services.

Being the woman responsible for rowdy children carrying fire across the sanctuary was no easy task, but Judy did so with grace and love toward all us acolytes.

Serving as the secretary at the First United Methodist Church in Reynoldsville, Judy poured her heart and soul, everything she had, into her job and into her ministry to others at the church, and Friday morning, Judy went home to rest peacefully with her Lord after a long battle with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), known as "Lou Gehrig's Disease" to many.

Despite a devastating diagnosis of the disease, though, one thing never changed with Judy... her positive attitude.

Known by Judy to so many of us, her God-given name was Joyce, and there really is so much in a name.

Depending on the source you're viewing, a few possible meanings for the name Joyce arise. First, it is often known to mean "lord," derived from the old Breton name Judoc.

And while that name fits Judy, as she was known for pointing others to the grace of her own Lord, I'd say the derivation that most closely fits Judy is another I discovered, which comes from the Middle English word "joise," meaning "to rejoice."

When I think of rejoicing, I think of joy. And when I think of joy, there are two types of people who come to mind: those who bring others joy, and those who are joyful in their own lives regardless of the circumstances surrounding them.

Judy fit both personas perfectly.

I can't think of a time I ever observed Judy in conversation with someone who wasn't smiling. Her personality, perfect for a church secretary, was welcoming and made one feel at home. It brought them a little bit of joy.

But what truly stood out to me about Judy, especially since being informed of her ALS diagnosis, was her ability to remain joyful and to exude that joy.

While I know there were tough times, she was a true model of joyful reflection to those around her.

While her family — one I've known so well my whole life — and so many others who loved and cared for her grieve her loss, Judy has prepared them for their loss in the greatest way she possibly could: by modeling joy despite difficult circumstances.

Her husband, who I've always known as Merle, has been a model of loving kindness and care for her. He has always been one who showed his love for his wife, and her joy shows in him as well.

Their children and grandchildren are known for their positive personalities, and despite battling a difficult time, I am confident her model will prove a blessing to them.

Judy was a woman I respected greatly, and the lesson she taught me will stay with me forever: You can choose joy.

Judy, you will be missed, but I hope and pray that the lesson you taught me and so many others is one we can continue to pass on to those we encounter every day.

There is so much in a name, but what really matters is the name we make for ourselves. We get to choose today how the people we know will remember our own names.

When you move on from this world, how will those who knew you remember your name?

Zak Lantz is the editor of The Spirit.