Today’s post was written by Amanda Wen, a dear friend whom I met while in worship ministry at our church. She is an amazing cellist as well as having the ability to write beautifully! We had the first three of our children within months of each other, which made it even harder when they moved away from us. She is wise as well as funny, which is a beautiful combination. I know you will enjoy these words from her heart.
What’s in a name?
Elizabeth, the wonderful author of this blog, posed a question recently to Facebook about finding a name for her fourth daughter. I don’t envy her task, as I was hard-pressed to find even one girl name I liked well enough to saddle my kid with it. But her question did get me thinking back to how I chose the names for my children, and the significance each has to me.
Before we even got pregnant with our firstborn, my husband told me, more or less at random, that he liked the name Caleb for a boy. I hadn’t thought about it at all, and as I had no particular objection to the name, it became the front-runner. The name became cemented early in my pregnancy, when a friend of ours, a young man also named Caleb, was tragically killed in a motorcycle accident. At his funeral, our pastor explained that Caleb in the Bible was an optimist, a go-getter, a “we can do that” sort of guy. “We can do that” is essentially my father’s motto, and with that, I knew our son’s name would be Caleb. (The meaning of the name, “bold, courageous, whole-hearted” goes along with this nicely). His middle name, Matthew, means “God’s gift.” We chose it because a) we liked it, and b) I couldn’t find another Biblical name that meant “surprise!”
“Surprise” was an apt descriptor of my feelings when, just a few short months later, I learned I was pregnant again. Although it was not my plan to have children so close together, it was God’s, and now, with four and a half years’ perspective and experience with two little boys who, though radically different in personality, are best friends, I know that, yet again, He knows best. But, continuing with the theme of surprise, we chose the name Jonathan, which also means “gift from God.” His middle name, Christopher, is the one name that honors both sides of the family. Considering that half the family is from China, this is no small feat indeed! The name also means “Christ bearer.” Could there be anything better to wish for my son?
When we conceived our third child, I had a strong feeling it would be a girl, and I was proven right. Unfortunately, choosing a girl name proved to be far more difficult. I wanted to avoid trendy names while still sounding somewhat contemporary, and I also wanted something Biblical.
Then one day, while I was reading in Psalms, I came across the word Selah. As a musician, I’ve always been intrigued by this word. Is it a musical instruction? Some sort of note to the choir director? What could it mean? I did a little research and discovered multiple meanings, ranging from “rock” to “pause and reflect” to a word that is indefinable, that simply means the highest form of worship.
The highest form of worship. Wow. And I knew then that I had the name for my little girl.
At first, Selah’s middle name was going to be Mei, a Chinese word that, depending on pronunciation, can mean either “beautiful” or “little sister,” both of which we knew she would be. But fairly early on in pregnancy, I was finally diagnosed with depression. My depression is not severe, and most of the time I barely know I have it, but during times of hormonal flux, particularly pregnancy, I cross over the line. My depression was worse with Selah than it was with either of the boys, and my doctor finally prescribed some medication for me.
After a few days of taking the meds, I realized what a godsend they really were. God had used modern medicine to give me my joy back. Joy that had been missing for nearly four years.
And so Selah’s middle name is Joy.
The name had been decided when we went to the hospital to have her, and while I was waiting for them to run some labs, I spied one of the Bibles the Gideons leave hospital rooms. This Bible, rather than being tucked away in a drawer, was open on a table. To Psalm 21, the first two verses of which are as follows.
The king shall have joy in your strength, O Lord;
And in Your salvation how greatly shall he rejoice.
You have given him his heart’s desire,
And have not withheld the request of his lips.
Although God does not often give signs like that, it is so amazing when he does.