Dear Baby Girls,
Last night, as I finally took the shower I’d wanted to take all day, I was thinking about the two of you. I was reflecting on the names that your daddy and I chose for you and about how those names reflect, in part, my own spiritual journey over the last two years.
We initially chose the name Deborah for you, sweet Debbie Joy, because it was the name that Grandma Janet had picked out for the daughter she didn’t have (that daughter turned out to be your daddy and Uncle Robert instead). Your name is like the memorial stones of Joshua 4, placed there so you, your parents, and your children will remember the faithfulness of God manifested vividly in the life of your grandmother. We see so much of her beautiful spirit in you. You already have her contagious sense of humor and irrepressible laughter. Your warmth when you meet strangers reminds me of the welcome she extended to me from my first moment in her house.
As beautiful as your name would be simply as a memorial to your grandmother, it has come to mean even more to me than that. In the Old Testament, Deborah is a judge, a leader of her people. She holds God-given authority as a woman in a world where men rule and Israel is an insignificant entity among the nations. She fearlessly pursues her calling into waters where others—especially men—do not dare to tread. That story resonates with me now because through the time of my pregnancy and your infancy, I feel I too have found my God-given strength and my calling as a mother and a teacher/scholar. I had never felt as strong as I did when I brought you into the world, never so confident in my reflection of the imago dei as when I cradled your life inside of mine.
Gabby Jane, you were a beautiful surprise during hardest season of my life. During that time, while everything else in my life pointed to disintegration, your determination to keep thriving pointed to a God who makes all things new. During my pregnancy with you, I realized that my strength never can be enough. I couldn’t deliver myself or my family from the darkness that threatened to overtake us. The difficulty of our lives seemed to manifest itself in my pregnancy with you. While my pregnancy with your sister was smooth sailing, my pregnancy with you seemed fraught with anxiety from the start, when a doctor told me hours after I found out that I was pregnant that she “didn’t concern [herself]” with your embryonic form due to the likelihood of miscarriage (I’d just been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease known to raise the odds of pregnancy loss). Even after you beat the odds and I exited the first trimester, pregnancy complications kept arising.
So we chose a name for you that reflected the God whose presence I had felt, no matter how faintly, during the months of my pregnancy. I realized during my pregnancy that the strength I’d found within myself meant admitting my helplessness before the only One with whom it is perfectly safe to be vulnerable. At the end of my strength, I found a God who has always been strong for me, and who pours his Spirit into me to allow me to do what I could never do alone. I started to walk with a faith that did not mean naively thinking everything would be perfect, but instead that God would be Immanuel even when things were wrong. Your name means, “God is my strength,” because through my pregnancy with you, I learned that I will lose the battles I fight alone, but “in all of these things, we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Sweet daughters, second only to the reality of how much you are loved, I want to teach you about the strength that will carry you. It will not fail you.