Wednesday, April 19, 2006

What's in a name - Part 2

My sister-in-law left me a comment from my previous post but then deleted it because she wasn't sure how it would come across and was concerned about others reading it and thinking she was criticizing my words or that she would hurt me. Instead she emailed her comment to me and I wanted to share what she wrote because it was a good comment and it gave me a lot to think about. My SIL talked about the process of naming your child and how as a parent, the first gift you give your child is their name. She's been struggling with calling me "Jenna" rather than "Jen" out of respect to my parents who named me. This is part of the comment she left and then deleted...

"You know, I don't think I would change my name. For me, my name was the first gift my parents ever gave me. I know that they would be hurt if I said, "that is no longer my name" and I would feel as though I were dishonoring them. And as a mother I remember the exciting and serious process of selecting a name for each of my children, the prayerful consideration that went into each choice. To know that one day they would reject that precious first gift would be very painful. I would be sad if they decided to change their name. I would be more sad if they were deep inside unhappy with who they were regardless of whether they changed their name or not. Of course God gives us each a new name but we are his children too. And one day my daughters may get married and will exchange their last names for a new one as a symbol of honoring their husbands, but I hope they always love the names that we bestowed upon them. I knew a girl who grew up in an abusive past who changed her name too. And she was marking herself free from that heritage. My prayer is that my children so love their childhood, their parents and their good names that while none of those may be perfect, they wouldn't change the very things that shaped who they would become."

I love getting feedback and comments to my posts and really appreciated what she wrote. It gave me a lot to think about. I can see where she's coming from with "your name being a gift from your parents." Back in grad school when I was thinking about changing my name, I talked to my mom about it and asked her what she thought about me changing my name to "Jenna" and if she'd be hurt if I did that. She understood where I was coming from and wasn't hurt by it. If I had decided to change my name legally to Jenna, that would have bothered her more and I could see how that could be hurtful and rejecting of the name she and dad gave me. I don't know the name God will give me, but I do feel like when I was "renamed" Jenna, it was a God thing. My time in Seattle and at grad school was such a time of change and growth and healing. I wanted to mark that time somehow because I need to remember that season of my life. That experience is such a "set apart" time for me and I wanted to mark that. Some people get a major haircut to mark a change or they get a tattoo. For me, it was my name change. (A tattoo will come later).

I agree that what we're named by our parents is a gift. When I got married, I really struggled with giving up my maiden name because that was tied to my dad and with him gone, I wanted to hold onto that. But I also wanted to take on husband's last name because I wanted to become one with him through that. Taking on his last name was a "leaving and cleaving" for me. So I decided to legally keep my maiden initial as a way to remember and honor my dad and I kept my legal name "Jennifer". I wonder though if there comes a time when as a daughter or son you separate from your parents, taking with you all they have taught you, in order to become and grow into who you're meant to become. For me, that included my name change - something symbolic to mark that passage. Perhaps the passage of leaving mom and dad to prepare to marry. For me, taking on "Jenna" is not a rejecting of what mom and dad named me but a moving forward to become who I'm meant to become. It's not meant to disrespect or reject Mom and Dad's gift and I know they knew that.

I don't know when my husband and I will be blessed with a baby but we're already starting to think of names we want to give our children. (So far we've come up with 3 possibilities of names we really like so that means we have to have at least 3 kids). I probably would be hurt if my child wanted to change their name but knowing the context would be important and what it means to them, why they want to change it, etc.

My SIL's comment made me think about why my mom and dad decided to name me Jennifer and I remembered that I was named after a neighbor girl who had died when she was 9. She had been born with heart problems. Her heart wasn't growing along with her body and she actually wasn't supposed to live for as long as she did but because she was very small-framed, she was able to live until she was 9. My mom had several names she liked and wasn't sure which one she ws going to choose. "Jennifer" was one of those names. She had been nervous about naming me after the neighbor girl for fear of hurting the girl's family but according to my mom, once I was born and they saw my face, they knew I was "Jennifer". I looked like a Jennifer so Jennifer it was. (That reminds me of one day when my Father in Heaven will look at my face and call me by His name for me. That's so cool to think about...)

All my life, I have believed that I was named after a girl who died as a child. And I have felt like with where my name came from, perhaps there was a part of my calling, a part of who I am that carries a weight to it. Perhaps there is a sense of sadness and loss due to being named after a girl who died at a young age. I am sensitive and intuitive and have deep emotions and carry the weight of who I am. But recently, I was talking to my mom about her naming process for me and it turns out, I wasn't named after this neighbor girl as a way to honor her life or carry on her torch or anything like that. Rather, "Jennifer" was the name my parents chose for me and (as a side note) there was also a neighbor girl who had died who's name was "Jennifer". I wonder if unconsciously my renaming myself Jenna was a running away from the burden of what I believed to be the story behind my name - this sense of sadness and loss and heaviness and deep emotion. And yet, talking more about it to my mom, while I wasn't named after this girl, she was a very spunky girl. While she was alive, she was full of life. And that, if anything, is what I should hold onto.

I feel like the meaning that the name "Jenna" has for me, God wants for me. I know He wants me to live in freedom, to trust Him and live beyond my fears. I know He wants me to open my heart and be authentic and love and live with passion. From death comes new life. I'm trying to move beyond the shadow of death that holds me back and keeps me stuck in so many different areas of my life. Knowing the true story behind my name is a good step in that direction. May I continue to grow more and more into my name. And add "spunky" to the list.



Thanks for leaving that encouragement on my blog - I heard a rumor about a girls' night bonfire..CSTONE is trying to work out details. Hope to see you there or soon! :)
Have a beautiful day.

Jenna Lynne E. Deckert said...

Thanks Katie! Had so much fun with you & CSTONE at the bonfire last night! Let's make that a girl's night weekly event :)