God-Given Names

Throughout Scripture, we see the significance of names. A person’s name was symbolic, representing his/her family history or character. The ancient Jews (and some modern-day ones) believed that giving a child a certain name would even predict what type of man or woman a child would grow up to be (like Jacob the “usurper” who would steal his brother’s birthright). Traditionally, in other words, the name given a child is considered to be a matter of great importance, having considerable influence on the development of that child’s character.

Additionally, naming someone or something signifies ownership of that person or thing. Fun fact: that’s actually where the tradition of a woman changing her last name after getting married comes from–when a father gives the bride away to the groom, her last name is changed to show the groom’s “ownership” of her. Several times, God himself told parents what to name their babies before they were born (e.g. Ishmael, Isaac, Solomon, John the Baptist, and of course, Jesus).

It’s no secret that naming a child is a huge responsibility. After Blake and I learned that we were matched with 2 precious little girls to adopt into our family, we began thinking a lot about names. The girls’ given names are Parphine and Clairia. We have always intended to keep those names as their middle names, but we were excited they were young enough (2 years old) that we felt we could give them new first names.

We wanted names that were a little more American for their sake, and we also felt like giving them new names would help us to feel connection, or even “ownership”, of these two little girls who would be placed in our care. Blake and I had actually thought of several boy names we liked, but once we learned we needed to think of TWO girl names, we didn’t have any ideas! We prayed over the decision for weeks and discussed dozens of names. Eventually we landed on the names Sydney and Savannah. We loved how they sounded individually and as a pair, and we thought they were beautiful names–albeit lacking any special significance. So, we began telling people their names: family members, friends from church, coworkers, etc., and we began to pray for them by their new names.

Well….the story does not end there.

This past week, I had the privilege of going to Estes Park, Colorado for a World Orphans staff retreat. This retreat was to be a time of rest, refreshment, and spiritual reflection. Of course, from the very first evening after we all arrived on our flights, my wonderful coworkers were asking about our adoption, the process, the timeline, prayer requests, and of course…the girls’ names. I happily told them their names were Sydney and Savannah and showed pictures like a proud momma.

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“My spot” where I did my devotionals each morning, and where the Spirit spoke to me.

Each morning of the retreat, we had 3 hours to read the Word, pray, and just be in the presence of God in the shadow of the mountains He created. The first morning, we read about Mary and Martha and the Rich Young Ruler. The theme that struck me about these two stories was Christ’s mercy. He invites us, as He invited Mary, to sit at his feet. In Mark 10:21, after the ruler [pridefully] says he has kept all the commandments, it says “Jesus looked at him and loved him…”. He looks at us, through our pride and our misunderstanding of the Word, and HE LOVES US anyways. And then He invites us to follow Him! Wow.

As I prayed and reflected on the Scripture, I felt the Holy Spirit say, “I want you to name one of your daughters Mercy.” Me: “Huh? What? Uhhhhh sorry, Holy Spirit, but you’re like a week too late. We’ve already named them. Besides, there’s two of them! If one is named Mercy, what’s the other supposed to be named?” And the Holy Spirit gently responded, “Noella”.

Now, I don’t claim to have heard the Lord’s voice audibly, but it was distinct enough for me to feel pretty shaken by it. I pulled up their pictures on my phone to look at the girls’ faces and ponder “Do you look like a Mercy? Do you look like a Noella?”. As I pulled up their pictures, I also pulled up the referral paperwork. There in the notes was the name of the orphanage director…Noella. Now, I know nothing about this lady. I don’t know if she does a great or a terrible job at running the orphanage and caring for children. But I know that God gave me her name. The meaning of Noella (feminine version of Noel) is “Christ is Born” or “the news of Christ’s birth”. It occurred to me that even Christ being born is an expression of God’s mercy on mankind. So in that sense, the two names really do go together as a pair.

I continued to pray for the next few days of the retreat about the girls’ names. You’d think one experience of hearing the Lord’s voice would be enough to make me obey immediately, but I’m pretty stubborn (and I really liked the names we had chosen already). The Scripture we read the next day was about the woman at the well–in other words, a story about God’s mercy, which he extends to a known sinner, inviting her to drink of His living water. The final morning of the retreat, we read the parable of the fig tree in Luke 13. The owner of the tree wants to cut it down because it has not produced fruit in 3 years, but the gardener asks him to wait 1 year while he fertilizes the tree, and if it still has not produced fruit by the 4th year, then it could be cut down. In other words…it was a parable about mercy. That passage also led me to Romans 11, and in verse 32 Paul says, “For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all.”

That was it. God was not playing around. He wanted to get my attention, and He definitely wanted me to name the girls Mercy and Noella. I called Blake and told him about my encounter with God there in the mountains. After being quite a bit surprised, thankfully, he affirmed the decision, and loved the new names.

We are humbled that God has chosen our daughters’ names. Now I tell people that Blake and I may have named them Sydney and Savannah, but God has named them Mercy and Noella. Truly, it is God who has total ownership of our girls. We know they rest in the palm of His hand, and we give their little lives over to Him, beginning with their names, knowing that He loves them better than we ever could. I pray that one day our daughters, Noella Parphine Allen and Mercy Clairia Allen, will know the love God has for them and accept His invitation to take up their cross and follow Him.

Read our adoption story and why we felt God calling us to adopt.

Check out other blog posts about Lindsay’s ministry and our adoption.

Read Lindsay’s testimony and learn about her work with World Orphans.

We were able to adopt debt free thanks to the help of this resource.