Updated: Jun 4, 2019
When I was born, my parents could not agree on a name for me. My mom told me many years later that it was my dad who gave me her first name a week after my birth, and she chose my middle name but decided that I would always be addressed by my nickname. I've never heard of anyone calling a girl named after her mother, "Junior".. have you? So the nickname made sense to try to avoid confusion.
Moving 19 times by the time I was 19, in 9 different schools across Canada, making NEW friends over and over again after leaving old ones far behind... My new teachers would call me by my legal first name during roll call on my first day. Usually they wouldn't even attempt to say my last name, which was very difficult to pronounce. I would timidly look around to see if another person with the same name put up her hand before answering. After seeing no other responses I would squeak out "could you please call me ___ (my nickname)?" They never heard me the first time, so I would have to repeat myself, sometimes twice more. By then I would be all red with embarrassment, feeling a whole classroom of strangers staring at me.
Somehow I managed to get through ALL of my first days at new schools. And, years of filling out legal paperwork for doctor appointments, college, jobs, etc., etc.. There have been many times that I have seriously considered changing my legal name to avoid the confusion, to leave my past negative experiences behind symbolically and to signify a new start in my life.
Not long ago I actually searched for a new name. I wanted to find one that meant hope, or God's blessings, or grace. The crazy thing that knocked me for a loop was that in my search, I realized that my middle and nickname both mean "God is gracious" and my first name means "soft, tender, and beautiful". That surprise brought tears to my eyes. I spent my whole life believing that I was ugly, incapable, and all my ideas were stupid. All along, God had given me a name that signified great meaning to HIM, but to me was invisible. Have I really been SO consumed with negative thinking?
The day I discovered this was a NEW day for me. There was a transformation in my heart and mind; a deep thankfulness to God for demonstrating that HE has known and seen the real me even in my darkest days when I wanted to hide in a hole or disappear forever. He thinks I'm beautiful - He created me (and you) to BE beautiful, and He has been and continues to be gracious in more ways I can count. Read Psalm 139:1-18 .
It took my parents a week after my birth to give me a name, but it took me 40-something years to realize its meaning and accept it.
I realize that not everyone has a name that has to do with beauty or God's grace. I'm not even sure my parents actually searched for meaning when they named me. That's ok. Not everyone does. Many times, people just pick names they like the sound of that seem to suit their child. The name they pick means nothing to the child to begin with, but means everything to the parents, and is also important to God! Revelation 3:5 says "the one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before His angels."
If you have ever thought about changing your name for whatever reasons, I encourage you to think about this: We all have hurdles in life, things to overcome and conquer. With the power of the Holy Spirit we will be victorious! We can live up to the names we have been given, or make our names greater than what they have been.
When we adopted our daughter from foster care we gave her a new name to signify a new life for her- a new family where she would be safe and loved unconditionally. There were also many people in scripture whose names were changed when God changed their lives, such as Abraham and Sarah and the Apostle Paul.
In this season of my life I've decided to keep my legal name but choose a Pen Name for the privacy of my family as I have begun to publish my writings. Starting over raising children at my age is not an easy task, let alone children from foster care. I am a new person because of what the Lord is teaching me through them. I want to do it all better than I did with our biological kids. My hubby actually said that to me last night without knowing I was praying the same thing. It's like getting a 2nd chance at parenting God's way. There are a lot of things we wish we could go back and redo as we were raising our other kids, but there are probably going to be a lot of things we will want to go back and redo with our present little ones too. We are human, constantly learning. But I've learned to listen a little better and pray a lot more. I realize so much more now how much I need the guidance of the Holy Spirit. I find myself whispering to Him a lot throughout each day.
So my Pen Name..you're probably wondering why I chose these three names. Well, overall, it's not about ME. It's about children. Writing allows me freedom to express my thoughts, dreams, and prayers, which are very personal and healing. I journal as often as possible and I love to go back and read old entries and see how the Lord has answered so many prayers that I probably would have forgotten had I not written them down. Writing under a pseudonym takes the focus, I think, off of myself when I share my writings with others. I don't want recognition and praise everywhere I go. I want to inspire people to focus on how they can make a difference for children in their life, and in the world. This song kind of sums it up : Only Jesus, by Casting Crowns.
When I first put the idea in front of my "Sister-from-Another-Mister" (SAM) and my husband they were both completely on board. SAM reminded me that my word for the year 2019 is HOPE. That name absolutely had to be included. I chose Genise after hours of searching. Genise means "God has shown mercy upon me" and He truly has! SAM suggested a favorite person in the Bible and the name that first popped into my mind was Josiah. Josiah means "healed by God; supported by God". I chose the feminine form "Joziah". The meaning alone is enough for me to choose this name because of the tremendous healing that the Lord has done in my heart over the last several years. But what Josiah did IN SPITE of his upbringing is what clinched the decision for me. "He did what was right in the eyes of the Lord and followed completely the ways of his father David, not turning to the right or to the left." 2 Kings 22:2 He repaired the temple, renewed the covenant of the Lord, tore down the idols and worked to turn the hearts of the people in his kingdom back to the Lord. "Neither before nor after Josiah was there a king like him who turned to the Lord as he did - with all his soul and with all his strength, in accordance with the Law of Moses." 2 Kings 23:25 In essence, Josiah sought to restore the legacy of God's chosen people.
This past year during some deep spiritual time with the Lord I wrote out a prayer for my family and future generations. A new legacy of scriptural truths and commitments that break the cycle of abuse that I came from. I typed it out and printed it on pretty paper as an anniversary gift to my husband. At the same time, without knowing about this gift, my husband gave me a picture of Jesus standing on the water reaching down to take the hand of the viewer who has sunk below. We got them both framed and they are now mounted side by side in our dining room.
I don't believe in coincidence. I believe if we open our eyes and hearts we will see, hear, and notice the messages God is trying to give or teach us. I also believe His timing is perfect. I'm thankful for the things I've learned and continue to learn because of, and, in spite of my past and my name. I'm also thankful for second chances and new beginnings! Remember, as I said earlier, regardless of the name your parents gave you, you get to choose who you are and what you do with your life. You can be victorious in all circumstances. And some day, when we are gone from this earth, hopefully what people will remember is the love we taught them to pass on - Jesus. Our names won't matter because we will all get new names anyway!
"...to the one who is victorious, I will give some of the hidden manna. I will also give that person a white stone with a new name written on it, known only to the one who receives it." Revelation 2:17