What’s In a Name?

What a treat for me to host Katharine Grubb today as part of the Identity Series. I’ve been toying with the idea of identity lately; what is it? Who decides? Is it the same as what we do? Last week, the discussion seemed to strike a middle balance. My dear friend Katharine writes about something unique to every person: our names. Please leave her some commenty goodness, ya’ll, okay? And? I get to meet Katharine IRL next week. I’m too excited.

Whenever someone starts a soliloquy with the words, “the day I was born . . . ” you better get comfortable. It’s going to be a long wait till the end.

The day I was born I was supposed to be named Joy. Joy Dawn, to be exact, and my joke my whole life was that since my mother, at the very last minute, changed my name to Kathy Leanne, that I was spared a life of living under the moniker of two dishwashing liquids.

I come from the Scotch Irish/Cherokee Indian uneducated working class who give nicknames for names. (Oklahoma is full of people like me). My family has a Johnnie (not John), Peggy (not Margaret), Bobby (not Robert), Judy (not Judith), Lucy (not Lucille) and Cuba. (A great aunt. I don’t get it either.)

This name was fine until I left Oklahoma for Massachusetts. Up north, ladies named Kathy are likely a Kathleen (and Irish) or Katherine (and formal).  I am neither. I never considered changing my name, but I was afraid that I would hurt the feelings of those who gave it to me.

There’s a spirit of self-loathing from them that haunts me, kind of a “who do you think you are expecting to have a real name? Just live with it!” And lastly, I could not imagine, in my wildest dreams, imposing any kind of preference on others“ Who do you think you are, asking people to change to suit your silly preference?” This goes back to the working class mindset. We settle. We don’t aspire. We keep our traps shut and be content with what we have.

And yet, God started me on a journey to change me and my name along with it.

Through reading Stacy Eldridge’s Captivating, the Holy Spirit revealed to me I was under a stronghold of the enemy. I was under a spirit of accusation — for my entire life! I falsely believed that I was worthless, a failure, rejected and undeserving of anything good. Stacy Eldridge resolved this by simply praying and asking God to take this accusation away. I could do that too! So I did.

After I prayed, I felt like a burden was being lifted from my shoulders! I was free!  I could see myself as worthy, loved and successful.  This was an amazing feeling!  But it wasn’t complete.  Where the spirit of accusation had been, there was a hole, something had to fill it, and that something was JOY!  JOY!  In fact, JOY would be like a new stamp on me, a new name.

I told my husband this and he immediately said, “Oh, Just like your birth story — Joy Dawn!”

I was stupified. I had forgotten all about that.  Now I began to see very clearly that the enemy had stolen my joy from the very beginning. God had intended for Joy to be my destiny, instead I had accusation. But that day was a new day. God delivered me from the spirit of accusation! He wants complete joy in my life! But that’s only the first part of my story.

In the early days of Facebook, I wrote out 25 Facts About Me. Remember that? I wrote this: My name is Kathy. Just Kathy. Not Katherine or Kathleen. I wish it was.

I had two responses to this. One was from my new friend in San Diego named Susanne. She confessed that she had been born a Susie, but she changed it to a much more grown up version and was quite happy she did. The other response was from an old college friend, Kate. When she was 27, she moved into a neighborhood where three little girls and a dog were named Katie, so she decided to start introducing herself as Kate. And like, Susanne, she’s quite happy she did. Both of these ladies put the idea into my head that perhaps I could change my name. But I still wrestled with the ghosts of that spirit of accusation, so I just prayed this: “God if you want me to change my name, then guide me through it. Give me the desire to. Make it easy. Give me a sign”

I had just about decided that changing my name was far too scary when something else amazing happened: Jen Fulwiler of Conversion Diary had a baby. She does a much better job of telling her story than I do, but the jist of it is this:  (This is the link: http://www.conversiondiary.com/2009/05/name-for-baby-joy.html )

During her pregnancy, her older children, insisted, to the point of tears, that the new baby’s name was Joy. But the problem was that Jen and her husband did not intend on naming their baby Joy at all. What they did intend on doing was seek God over the name of their baby. The name they chose eventually was Catherine.

Catherine is also the name of Jen’s favorite saint, Saint Catherine of Siena, who, as a child was nicknamed Joyby her siblings. (But read her account to see how amazing this is.)

When I read this I was astounded.  Here was a connection for me! The baby in Texas and the 14th Century saint were both Joys AND Catherines!  I took this as my sign. And decided that God had changed me enough to want to have a new name.

I’ve now introduced myself as Katharine Joy for two years. When I have to say that name, I have to remember who I am — who God called me to be. Even when I don’t feel very competent or pretty or dignified. Even when I feel like an uneducated hick. People address me as Katharine and it reminds me of how they see me.

I have a new identity. I have not what I was given, but what was restored. And I am so full of joy about it.

Katharine Grubb lives in Boston, MA and blogs at www.10minutewriter.com