“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”
In Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare leaves us with the question, do names even matter? He urges us to think, that they don’t, oh but my sweet innocent flowers, they matter more than we know. Why else would we find lists like ” Trendiest Baby names of 2019″ “Cool Baby Names” “Strong and Powerful Boy Names”, “Unique Girl Names”, and “Classic Baby Names”? Why else would little girls discuss their babies’ names at the lunch table or fantasize about their life as “Isabella” instead of “Kate”?
If you love names, and love stories, I’ve got a good one for you today. And if you’ve ever wondered if names really mattered, I can answer that one for you too.
My first name. My grandmother’s first name. Mother Mary. Wished for child. Sea of Bitterness.
This was the name that was hardest for us to decide on. That might surprise a lot of people since it’s my name, but quite honestly, that had very little to do with this decision. Like Helen, I too was named for my grandmother, both of them actually- like Anna Beth. For a long time, we knew we wanted to use the name Helen, but the second part of her name was a struggle.
About the end of November, we had settled on three possibilities for Helen’s name. One Tim preferred one I preferred, and then there was Mary. We both liked Mary Helen, but we weren’t sold. I’m not exactly sure why. I think we felt like it was too “expected”. We weren’t actively looking for a double name and quite honestly didn’t want one for this child. We love the name Mary Helen, but we wanted to call her Helen. Our other two name options felt different. They were unexpected and they honored other parts of our lives.
As usual, but God.
He had other plans for her name. Sometime in December, I began to get frustrated that we couldn’t seem to decide, so I began to pray.
“God, what is this little girl’s name?”
“Yes, Mary Helen.”
“What about …”
“Her name is Mary Helen.”
Just for good measure, I prayed this again a few days later. He gave me the same, clear and simple answer.
Her name was indeed Mary Helen.
God gave me a HUGE gift in this name. Helen’s hospital bracelet read Mary Powitz. Tim and I carried the same name around on our wrist too, Mary Powitz 1/15/19 for days. That’s when I first realized God’s gracious gift in the form of her name.
My mail, medical records, official documents, and emails from strangers all read Mary Powitz. For years, I’ve hated seeing only two names on anything. Mary Pike. Mary Powitz. That’s not who I am. Yet, now, every time I see those two sweet words I will always think of her. I will smile instead of grumble. When a nurse calls for Mary in the waiting room I will think of my daughter. I will wonder if she would have cringed the way I always did. I will wonder if she would have been irritated that she always had to correct the teacher on the first day of school. And for the rest of my life, I will cherish that we shared a name.
Shining light. The bright one. My Grandmother.
Helen Pike is sweet and strong. She has the refreshing gift of being able to laugh at herself. She is accepting and loving. I hoped our Helen would be like that. My grandmother is one of the most influential people in my life. She cultivated my love of stories and Cary Grant. She taught me a woman can love basketball and romantic comedies. She taught me that family is worth everything.
We wanted to honor her and we wanted Helen to share some of her beautiful traits. Helen was an easy choice.
Again, but God.
We didn’t know just how meaningful Helen’s name would be. Helen means shining light, which we knew long before Helen was born. At Christmas, I asked a dear friend to illustrate “shining light” for Helen’s nursery. Our hope for Helen was that she would be a light wherever she went. That through all of her pain and struggle with her cleft, that she would smile and smile big. We prayed that she would proclaim Jesus and point others to Him even though she would suffer through many surgeries and unexpected hardships.
Whenever I envisioned my daughter as a little girl and even a teenager, I pictured this joyful, funny, sassy, little girl. A little girl who was braver than I could ever be. I pictured her telling us that she was ok and that everything was going to be alright. As a middle school girl, I saw a Helen who was proud of her scars and proud to share her story. I saw a Helen who could brighten a room with her smile and laugh contagiously. A Helen that drew people in so that she could point them to Christ. A Helen who would shine so bright.
We might not see all of those traits on this side of Heaven, but without a doubt, she is living up to her name, shining light. If there was ever a light for Christ, Helen is one, if only because she points us to Him.
Every verse, every song, every phrase that exemplifies lightness and darkness, I think of Helen and the truth that God is greater than our pain. God is always good. That the victory is ours. He wins. I’m reminded that God gave us a very clear story to tell, to shine Helen’s light. ” The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not overcome it.”
“The light is always stronger than the dark.”
“This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”
“I saw the light.”
I’m reminded daily, that I’m to “shine my light” the light of Jesus, that I’ve found even deeper through the light of Helen. She is pushing us to “be the light of the world” by sharing the story of all God has done because of her.
Our name. Legacy.
She will always be a part of us, she is a part of our family just as much as anyone else, even though she isn’t here. If a family tree was only made up of the living, then we wouldn’t have a tree at all. When we tell the story of our family, we will share the story of Helen, because she is in our make up now, all of us.
Do names matter? They most certainly do, but it isn’t our job to bring them value and write their story. I couldn’t have known the blessing that Helen’s name would be to us. If you’re struggling with naming a baby, don’t apply too much pressure, it will come. God has known your child’s name long before you dreamed it. Just wait for Him to tell it to you.