What’s in a name? 

I’ve always thought names are important. They can come with a history, a heritage, a wish, an expectation…they can be a first impression or a lasting one, and they can be used to build you up or tear you down.

Even before I was a Mrs, before we were on this long road to parenthood I kept lists of names I liked. I sometimes had pictures of the people those names belonged to in my head. I worked out their stories and struggles in my writing, I imagined their lives. So, you can imagine I have not taken the naming of my children lightly. I have written lists of names for them, imagined what traits their name might bring to their life, what story it tells about them. I’ve looked up meanings, thought about nicknames, and considered they way it sounds mixed with our last name. I think I’ve taken this naming business much more seriously than my sweet husband and possibly more than is really necessary, but this little birthday gift has always been high on my priority list.


Amara Joy is the name we’ve chosen for our girl. OK, admittedly, I may have insisted. 😉 I knew her first name long before she was created, I knew her first name without a doubt long before I could settle on a boys name. When I said before I might have called her from heaven by her name I truly meant it. This is that story.

I believe I’ve mentioned before the importance of my maternal grandmother in my life. The memories I have of her are some of my most precious, the summers I spent with her instilled in me a sense of love and acceptance I will never forget. I can close my eyes and stand on the front porch of her small trailer as though I was there yesterday. I can walk my way through that home touching the kitchen counter smelling the cinnamon sugar pie crust she saved for me. I can picture her in her chair, tatting away with hands swift and sure as lightning while baseball plays silently on the TV. I can move down the wood paneled hall, stopping to visit my bedroom, smiling at the bags of yarn in the closet and know the solid peaceful feeling I’d have resting my head on that pillow, listening to the train whistle in the distance. I can walk farther down the hall, visiting the mustard yellow stack-able washer and dryer in the bathroom, just my size I always thought. I can visit grandma’s bedroom with the floral bedding and curtains my mom and her sisters replaced one summer as a gift for her. My grandma went to be with the Lord when I was 14, but those memories of her linger stronger than any in my life.

During this infertility process when I sometimes found it hard to talk to God I would talk to my grandma instead. She raised six girls, persevered after her husband’s death when the youngest of which was five and the oldest sixteen. Of course I knew her as a retiree, without the pressures of providing for teenagers and young children. I knew a woman passionate about church and singing loud and proud even from her place beside me in the pew. Who was known for her making to both family and friends. She made layettes for all the babies, slippers, blankets, hats, quilts, dolls…her hands did not know how to be still. She taught me a lot, but mostly she just loved me. It’s the kind of relationship I hope my mom and her granddaughter have. So, when in this difficult journey I felt abandoned I called out to her. I can lay in my bed 20+ years later and listen for the trains in the dark and feel myself back in that little bedroom safe and comforted.


I’ve always known it was her I wanted to name my daughter after. Her name was Martha -and though I don’t love the name Martha I set out to find a name that could both honor her and celebrate the unique girl she would’ve called great-grand-baby. I went looking for variations on her name and my first consideration was Mara. I like the name Mara a lot, but I don’t love that I remember Ruth 1:20 every time I hear it.

“Don’t call me Naomi,” she told them. “Call me Mara, because the Almighty has made my life very bitter.”

I definitely don’t want to give my girl a legacy of bitterness, so I looked a little farther. I found that if you add an ‘A’, and the name becomes Amara, it changes the meaning to ‘eternal’. Now that’s a name I’m happy to bestow on my little love. So Amara it became, and since I’ve found it there has been no other name.


Amara’s middle name was harder to settle on but has a less dramatic history. I tried out the middle names Faith and Hope first, but they left me feeling unsettled and not quite right. A few years ago I chose the One Little Word for myself of Joyful; a word to think on and bring into my life for the year. I made a banner and hung it up in our hallway, and at the end of the year I didn’t take it down. I don’t think I chose another word after that, it just lives with me all the time. When I think about what the infertility process required -Faith and Hope- are at the tippy top of the list. But when I think about what I wish for my girl it’s that when her faith and hope are called upon to be active hardcore that she find joy in whatever she’s going through. My cousin Meredith would say “Find joy in the journey.” And that is the dream. A verse that’s stuck with me through all of this is Psalm 27:13-14.

I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord  In the land of the living.

Wait for the Lord;  Be strong and let your heart take courage; 

Yes, wait for the LORD.”

That is the truth. Not to say I didn’t have hard days, but the hard days did not beat me, they did not break me. Which leads me right to the verse that is my wish for our girl; Nehemiah 8:10.

“Do not be grieved, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.”

That’s it. I pray the joy of the Lord is her strength; Amara Joy it is. Our daughter has a name that satisfies the part of me that puts too much weight on two little words. Added bonus -her initials are A.J.- my father’s first initial (A) and my mother’s (J). It’s also a pretty great nickname should she be a Tomboy and prefer something more neutral than Amara…or Mari…or cuddle bug…or snuggle bear…or any of the thousand other cutesie things she may be called by those that love her.


As you can see she’s already brought so much joy to her parents.


About Stephanie

I'm a thirty-something wife, a Mama who loves family, dogs & bunnies. A daughter who loves to cook & bake. A sister who loves to sew & knit. A friend who loves to gab & laugh. I'm a christian & a maker of things. I'm a curator of memories, a photographer of life, a writer of stories. I'm a girl who is learning to love the richness of life in all it's fullness. A girl choosing to seek gratitude for my ordinary everyday. A girl learning about choosing to live in joy. Connect with me on Twitter/Instagram/Flickr @BextraordinaryU

One response to “What’s in a name? 

  1. Carolyn Burns

    Sounds like a perfect name to me. I’m so glad you are honoring your Grandma Martha.

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