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Our son John recently told Ray that he is trying to live up to a challenge given to him many years ago by Ray’s great-aunt, Aunt Clara. When I got to know Aunt Clara, she was in a nursing home. When we visited her, we were the ones who were blessed, especially when she prayed aloud for us. When Aunt Clara entered the nursing home, she had taken one piece of furniture with her. After her funeral, that table came home with Ray. She wanted him to have it. I’m thankful to have in our home this tangible reminder of this beautiful woman.

I remember the day that Aunt Clara gave John that challenge. She told him to live up to the name of Notgrass. How I appreciated those words to our teenaged son. How thankful I am that he is committed to it almost twenty years later.

Now, I guess I have to admit that to a lot of people Notgrass is a strange name to honor. The name has never bothered me. Months before I met Ray, I saw the name Ray Notgrass attached to his regular columns in our college newspaper, and I got used to it. When I got to know Ray, and he soon asked me to become a Notgrass, I just didn’t think anything about the name.

I will admit that Notgrass is unique. We decided to capitalize on its uniqueness when we started our business. Notgrass Company — we knew that was unique enough for a company name!

Though I wasn’t bothered by my new name, I did have to learn to live with it. I had to remind people to look in the N’s, and not the K’s, when they were looking it up. I have to explain it to people on the phone: “Not flowers, not trees, not grass.” I’ve spelled it — a lot. In fact being a Charlene and a Notgrass, I just start spelling after I give someone my name. Through the years we have gotten a kick out of funny spellings we get in the mail. One of my favorites came when we had been married only a short time. It was addressed to me, Mrs. Nat Grass.

We smile when people tell us the same joke about our name over and over again. “If it’s not grass, what is it?” It’s fun, because we’ve heard it from so many people who think they are the first to dream that one-liner up. We’re not offended. We just laugh. I’ve been laughing at that joke now for about 38 years; Ray’s laughed about it even longer!

We like to remember Isaiah 40:8: “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever.” Ray reminds our family that we are not grass.

We all need to encourage our children to honor their heritage and not to shame the family into which they were born–and we need to do the same ourselves. Names are precious. In fact:

A good name is to be more desired than great riches.
Proverbs 22:1, NASB

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  1. Proverbs 22:1 has been instilled in my daughters’ minds over and over since they were babies. As I’m kissing them good-bye to go to Sunday School or a friend’s house or a homeschool co-op or wherever, I always tell them, “Be kind. Be helpful. Have a good name!” They laugh because they’ve heard it so many times, but I can’t tell you how often I’ve been able to share with them a good report from a teacher or another parent. And I always tell them, “I’m so proud of you for having a good name.” A good name, a solid reputation, will open more doors in life than money or intelligence or wit or anything else. I’m so glad it was preached to me and that I’ve preached it to my own children too.