Our Review of Personalized Gifts from CrossTimber

CrossTimber Product Image

I am a big fan of gifts that aren’t necessarily expensive but are unique to the giver, receiver, or both and have obviously had a lot of thought put into them. So I was very excited to find the company CrossTimber, which specializes in unique name-related gifts!

CrossTimber Product Image

CrossTimber is a small family-run business that researches name meanings, writes name stories, and makes inspiring and encouraging name-meaning gifts, including music boxesfull-color coffee mugs, and the product we received, a personalized framed plaque with name meaning and Bible verse. Best of all, they aren’t limited to popular, mainstream names. Customers can pick their own design for ANY name, and they will work with you to find its meaning and create a gift you love for the name you’ve chosen! You can do first names, first and middle names, family names/surnames, and even couples’ names.


Each of us on the Homeschool Review Crew were given a little more than $30 to spend on the CrossTimber website. I found so many things that I wanted to get that I ended up spending a bit more and getting two prints, one of their Names of God framed prints (for Yahweh) and a pdf of one of the personalized name meaning and Bible verse prints (for Immanuel – one of our sons’ middle names) that we can print out ourselves.

It is quite easy to order a personalized name meaning and Bible verse print. The picture below shows the order screen. You begin by browsing and choosing one of the hundreds of designs they feature on the left side bar. Next you choose whether your want the pdf, a print, or a framed print; at this stage, you can also choose which frame you want. Finally, there are a few add-ons to choose from. I opted to get the email proof so that I could see what they came up with and make any adjustments I wanted before the final version was sent to me. Other add-ons include bookmarks, pocket cards, or greeting cards of the same name and design as well as the option to add a message to the back.

CrossTimber screenshot

Below is the email proof I was sent for the Yahweh print I ordered. I love it so much, and I especially love the verses they chose for it.

Yahweh print email proof

Here’s a close up of the verses:

Yahweh print verse close-up

Next is the proof I was sent for the Immanuel pdf I ordered. I chose the Garden Bridge design and asked if they could make the letters a little more blocky than the ones shown on the order page. I think it’s lovely, but after they sent it, I realized I hadn’t asked for the verse I wanted. We’ve given all our children verses to go with their middle names and I was hoping to include his on this print.

Immanuel email print version 1

So I wrote and asked if I was allowed to choose a verse for it. They responded with an affirmative and the following comment, “Custom verses are the most common request, but we also get {requests for} custom photos for the background or unique spellings, accent marks, printing in languages, changes to the meaning, etc!  All of those are covered in our $2 “email proof and adjustments” option, beneath the design.”

And here’s the new proof they sent me. Perfect.

Immanuel proof version 2

For my Yahweh print, I chose the option to let them choose the frame for me. Here’s what it looked like when it arrived. I think they chose well and that the frame really complements the print beautifully. What you can’t see in this photo is that the glass in the frame arrived shattered into a million pieces! I’m currently in the process of contacting the company about a replacement as the shards punctured the print in a few places. Based on my interactions with them, I feel confident that they will make this right as soon as possible. I will update this post when things are resolved.

UPDATE: As expected, CrossTimber has been very accommodating about this problem and are replacing the frame and print.

Yahweh print framed

All in all, I was very pleased with my experience ordering from this company. I asked John, the owner, several questions about his process which I think you will find interesting as well. His answers are quite long, as you will see, but they gave me a lot of respect and confidence so I decided to share them in full. If you decide to skip the interview, make sure to at least scroll down to the end so you can enter the Christmas giveaway!

1) I saw on your website that you also do surnames. How do you handle surnames from other languages like ours, Chen, or like our African friends, the Akembes?

Surnames! When I first considered making surname gifts, I thought it would be no more difficult than first names. I thought, “Families are made up of lots of first names, and only one last name, so there should be fewer last names, right?” Nope… nope and nope! In the USA, there are over 150,000 surnames, which is about 30 times more last names than first names, and I would guess that ratio is even steeper in other countries. But most of our business is for first names. So far, we have only researched about 350 surnames.

Since most of our business is in the US, surname orders are usually for American variants on German, Italian, French and Latin names. Due to no skill of mine, God has blessed me with success on most surname orders, and when research reveals no clues for the origin of the surname name, we’ll recommend using a strong family-themed Bible verse in place of the meaning.

Regarding Asian names: It’s been my experience that Asian names like Chen are extremely difficult for me to research, because English and Asian languages don’t match up, letter for letter, word for word, meaning for meaning. A common name like Fong or Chen can have one pronunciation and spelling in English, but many meanings, depending on the dialect and specific letters originally used in the Asian language. And what makes it harder is even when you find the meaning, it is sometimes so abstract or neutral that developing an encouraging message or Biblical connection is really hard for someone unfamiliar with the languages. (aka, ME!) Quite often, the client is more acquainted with the language and history of their name than I am, and thus, more qualified to attach meaning to it.

Chen Chinese – at least three different characters Great, Vast, Morning, Break of Day, Exhibit, Display, Old, Ancient: Those who Reveal God’s Transformation of the Past to the Present Isaiah 58:8 …Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily: and thy righteousness shall go before thee; the glory of the LORD shall be thy rear guard.

Another great verse: See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you. Isaiah 42:9

One of the Review Crew’s other reviewers had the surname LaFollette, which meant in a literal translation, “Little Crazy One.” She already knew that, and we had a laugh about how home educators can be crazy. 🙂 It was also the name of a presidential runner, and a famous general. It’s been more than once that God leads just a little bit further beyond the negative, literal meaning to find a positive one. We could also have looked for a historical meaning based on the character of the near-president, the famous general or the city named after the general. But in this case, we continued to research linguistically. The phrase “Little Crazy One” was equivalent to “empty-headed”, and had come from a much older, neutral word that meant “filled with air.” Having traced back to a word that was not an insult, we were able to consider the functional concept of “empty.” I suggested the below to the reviewer, in connection to the miracle of empty jars in the Bible’s account of Elijah:

LaFollette Filled with Air, Vessel Seeking to be Filled: Those who God Provides for, in Abundance 2 Kings 4:1-7 Elijah said to the woman, “Go, borrow vessels from all your neighbors, even empty vessels; do not get a few. Pour out oil from your jar into all the vessels, and set aside what is full.” So she did as he said, and every vessel was filled. And Elijah said “Go, sell the oil and pay your debt, and you and your sons can live on the rest.”

…chuckle… I hope I’m not testing your patience with the length of my answer! In summary, I would say that surnames are difficult to research, because resources are limited, languages have been clashing since the Tower of Babel, and our surnames continually morph through the years with unique spellings and pronunciations. It’s not always possible for us to find a positive, encouraging meaning of every surname gift that is ordered, but because of our passion for names, we always love to try!

2) How do you handle made-up first names like my American friends Mesu and Chautona, whose parents were being creative?

Wow, you really know how to hit the most challenging parts of our business! *laugh* But I love it. Inspired names are an excellent topic. Most names have a specific linguistic, cultural or historical connection with a clearly defined meaning. We research names one at a time, and put a lot of effort into finding the legitimate, academic meaning of a name, and then applying a Biblical perspective to that concept. (See www.Meaning.Name/RE) But made-up names are much different, and some of the most challenging names to research because of the very personal nature of the reasons and values that parents discuss to create the name. Because the name was made up creatively, uncovering the meaning usually requires a creative discussion with the client. We typically begin a name’s research by looking for links within the language and culture, but when it’s obvious that a name is made up, we prompt the client to seek out the parents’ perspective on why they chose that name.

*drumroll* anecdotes!

Sometimes, those conversations can be really fun, and each one is unique. A recent example from someone on your TOS Crew Leadership Team: her daughter had been named after her grandmother, who had been named by the dad who heard the name in a song on the way to the hospital to deliver the baby! Plot twist: he misheard the name and nobody knew the original name until many years later when they looked at the lyrics of the song!

For this name, we discussed the linguistic meanings of the name in the song (and the name he thought he heard in the song!), and considered the positive character of the grandparent’s parents. From my limited viewpoint, the most relevant factor in the name was that she was named after her grandmother, so I would ask what qualities and wisdom the grandmother had that were worth connecting to the newborn’s name and life.

Another example is my son’s very unique name, Rigby. The conversation of his parents (my wife and I) is a great example of the personal meaning created through the reasons a name was invented.

Ultimately, we chose the name after our desire to inspire our boy to use creativity and imagination to overcome problems, think outside the box and inspire others around him, (a desire I’ve found common among homeschool parents!). Via Cathy Rigby, a gold medal gymnast and play performer, the name is historically linked to James Barrie, the author of Peter Pan and Never Neverland, who introduced a colorful creativity through his plays, despite his culture of rigid societal rules and the stifling of art and creativity. (More on that story here: www.meaning.name/AR/newbaby.html#ARnamingmyson)

3) How do you handle names from other religions like Mohammed (which is actually the most common name in the world now)? God’s Spirit is moving mightily among Muslims in America and throughout the world and there are now a number of Mohammeds following Jesus, some of whom we call friends. Is a name plaque from you possible for them? What about Krishna (Hindu) or Minghua (Chinese), etc.?

First, I rejoice to hear that God is reaching His children who have been called out of Islam. Men and women rescued from Islam to follow Jesus are a great testimony to God’s forgiveness, grace and strength. My opinion is that their name is part of their story, and part of their testimony of God’s power to rescue, redeem and transform their lives. Being “named after” someone does give us a sense of history, and like being “named after Grandma,” may even reveal some Godly qualities we can ascribe to, but a name does not define us, condemn us or make the treasure in our name meaning unsearchable. Regardless of what people, myths, democrats or cartoon characters may have borne the name before us, that negative reputation is miniscule in comparison to our new family name as children of God. Applying a negative meaning based on someone’s name or how we think of their name is the kind of bias and “respect of persons” that God warns about, and that He never does.

The truth is, such a name can open opportunities to share their testimony that God has the power to transform a person’s entire life, including their reputation, name meaning, and even their name! (See http://www.meaning.name/NameStories/index.html#cross.) And just like names such as Mary or Jacob, we maintain the goal to find a legitimate academic meaning, and then apply a Godly perspective to it.

That’s the short answer. But I have lots more commentary, and I’d love your response to it! Your input will help polish this as an article for our website. You and your husband are the first to ask this question so specifically. Thank you for the opportunity to force my beliefs onto paper.

In the early years of researching names, I often considered the issue of “non-Christian names”, wondering what conflict or confusion I might encounter, worrying about being confronted with a name that simply had no positive meaning. But, as with most issues of worry and fear, the answer was more simple than I expected.

To really answer your question, I need to challenge the idea that a name can be from a religion or from a person in the past. Every name (except One) is a derivative of something else; a place of origin; a reason for being chosen and/or a language in which it is based.

At their core, names come purely from the namer (usually the parents), and their concepts of why they are choosing it.  While they may chose it for religious reasons, a name does not exclusively belong to one religion or another. There are Muslim reasonings and no Muslim names or Hindu names or Christian names. (See http://meaning.name/RE/index.html#ARchristian.) There are only names of people. Names of children who are loved by God, long before they were born, far after they are dead, and every moment in-between.

I’ve never forgotten a tape recording of Corrie Ten Boom when I was a boy. She died in 1983, not long after I was born. She was a faithful servant of God, survivor of the WWII holocaust and rescuer of hundreds victims of Nazi Germany. As I remember her charming Dutch accent, she said “God has no grandchildren. Only children. You cannot enter the family of God based on your parents’ faith. It must be your own faith.” I recently came across this story in Corrie’s book, Not Good if Detached, in which she expounds upon this statement when she asked a boy in Mexico, “Are you a child of God?” His answer was, “Señora, I go to church every Sunday.” She responded, “That is good, but not sufficient. When I go into a garage, I do not become a motor car. A mouse born in a biscuit tin does not become a biscuit. There is only one way to become a child of God—obey John 11:12. Those who receive Jesus as their Savior and their Lord, He makes children of God.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VlmxNv6kedk (her testimony) The boy replied, “But my parents are fine children of God.” And she answered: “God bless them, but don’t forget that God has no grandchildren. After you have received Jesus as your savior, you are adopted into the very family of God, and you can say to Him with a happy heart, ‘Father, my Father’.”

The same distinction must be made with names. Being named John or Jesus – or literally being named “Christian”— does not mean we are in God’s Family any more than being named Mohammed or Fintan or Zeus means we are forever committed to those cults. Yeshua alone is the One Way to God, and only through our relationship with Him will He read our name from the Book of Life. No doubt, there will be Johns and Matthews that will be blotted out, and others like your friend, Mohammed, whose name will be read before the throne of God. (Rev 3:5).

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”  And that name is Yeshua the Christ, (aka, Jesus Christ), whom was crucified, whom God raised from the dead.

Now how does this concept translate to our research? We look for God’s true purpose and meaning and message inside every name. Some research is easy, and some is challenging. For example, there are lots of great resources on “Bible names.” (See Hitchcock’s Bible Name Dictionary), and it’s usually not hard for us to find a positive meaning for a Bible name, because people in Bible times picked names based on their meaning (including the Creator!) Even names of bad examples in the Bible (Jacob, Jezebel, Cain, Herod Antipas, Judas, etc.) all have legitimate meanings that can be positive when understood from God’s perspective.

Names made popular from Irish folklore, Muslim’s false prophet or ancient Greek myth, are no different. Fintan or Zeus or Mohammed all have positive, encouraging meanings when separated from falsities and viewed from God’s perspective.

Mohammed Arabic To Praise, He who Praises: He who Knows the True Ownership of Glory 1 Chron. 16:29 Give unto the LORD glory and strength. Give unto the LORD the glory due unto his name: bring an offering, and come before him: worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.


I remember the most shocking name I ever researched was Lillith.  It was such a lovely-sounding name that I was really surprised to find its association with a cultic Jewish myth of moral perversion.  I won’t even repeat it here, but it was clear that historical or cultural research would not result in a pleasant meaning.  So we sought out a purely linguistic meaning, and talked with the mother about her reasons for choosing that name to discover this beautiful meaning:

Lillith Arabic, Latin Evening Flower: Purity and Grace 1 Timothy 4:12 Let no man despise thy youth; but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.


From an academic viewpoint, I view the research as a process of stripping away any misleading ideas from ancient folklore, present cults, astrology, or just plain lazy research, and focusing on the most positive and encouraging aspect of their identity, from a Godly perspective. And probably according to design, that’s what God does with our hearts, too!



Connect with CrossTimber

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/meaning.name/

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/crosstimber

Call CrossTimber at 1-888-763-2646

Contact CrossTimber online: http://www.meaning.name/AR/contact.html

Enter CrossTimber’s Christmas Giveaway

Until December 4, 2016, CrossTimber is giving you the chance to enter to win your own personalised name gift at CrossTimber Name Meaning Giveaway so be sure to head over there and enter!

I, along with other members of the Homeschool Review Crew, received a free copy of this product in exchange for our honest reviews. You can see what my fellow Review Crew Members thought of it by checking out the Crew Blog Post for this product. I always love checking out everyone’s reviews as they always come up with creative ways I never would have thought of to use these things!

Crew Disclaimer

By Tina Chen

Tina is a book-loving, globe-trotting, home-schooling mom of five kids. Her greatest passions are learning with her husband how to live and love like Jesus and teaching others to do the same. She particularly enjoys teaching kids to worship and pray fervently and creatively. She loves music, cooking, and reading, and is a complete sucker for a good redemptive analogy! Tina blogs at mommynificent.com and desperatehomeschoolers.com.

1 comment

  1. UPDATE: CrossTimber just finished their newest name meaning gift, AMAZING NAME. It’s a personalized, animated story which speaks to your child BY NAME and takes them on an adventure to discover the meaning of their name! Packed with personalized features that show your child how special they are and really bring them INTO the adventure! Take a look at CrossTimber’s video at http://www.Amazing.Name

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.