I find the process of naming humans to be a difficult process.
Maybe it’s because I’m a word person—or because I “overly-associate” (“Oh nevermind, we can’t name him that — that’s the name of that kid from 3rd grade who said that one weird thing that one day.”) Or because we really like our children’s names to be grounded in family or faith traditions. But whatever it is, we’re not the kind of people who have had 8 perfect children’s names in our heads for years and can simply pull them out of our pocket and say: thou shalt be named Blah blah! [For the record, Blah blah was never really an option on our lists.]
But what I’ve discovered in my 5 short years of child-bearing is that all of my children have kind of… named themselves. Their names came to us over the process of thinking, list-making, reading, praying, and talking ad nauseam. And each name surprised us—they weren’t trendy names that were the first to pop into our heads when thinking of names we liked. They weren’t the overtly obvious names or the ones we even talked about the most. But when they finally reached our minds and hearts, they felt so meant to be.
One of my favorite naming stories is of Kate; Katherine Grace. I reflected on it this weekend, her 3rd birthday.
We debated for months on Kate’s name. And even looking over the list we made now, I smile. She is so perfectly Kate and I can’t imagine her as anything else. But in retrospect, I believe I know why our hearts waited to reveal her name to us. In fact, we didn’t decide for sure until a few hours before she was born.
But what I believe we were being prepared for is the element of surprise that came with her Down syndrome diagnosis. It wasn’t what I had dreamed of while pregnant—and though I now know she is everything I dreamed of and more, at the time, it was an adjustment.
But the neat part is, her name arrived on the same day she did. We never attached a name to whoever that imaginary person is we dreamed of while pregnant. We only knew one Kate, Katherine Grace, a name that means:
Pure Grace. The formal definition being: “the free and unmerited favor of God.”
Her name fits like a glove.
And as we begin to muse about the name of number 4, I remind myself that the naming of our children is not an act of great pressure—but of great privilege. After all, each child arrives to us with the “free and unmerited favor of God,” on loan for us to care for and love—but only because of a greater grace. And though a name may not determine where somebody is going, it is a beautiful reminder of where they started.
Happy Birthday, Kate.