What’s in a Name?

When I was born my mom wanted to give me a unique name, so she chose Jennifer. I know. In fairness to her, before the 70’s it actually wasn’t a very popular name. But it became popular. In fact, for 15 years in a row it was the top name given to little girls.

Don’t believe me? There were 14 girls named Jennifer in my pre-school class. Still need convincing? At the parent meeting for my son’s little league team, five of us introduced ourselves as Jennifer – and there are only eleven boys on the team! My next door neighbor? Jennifer. Across the street? Jen. Two houses down? Jenny.

When I was in high school there were so many of us that we had to figure out how to distinguish ourselves. We had Jennifer, Jen, Jenny, Jenn, Jenni, and Gennipher. Then some chose to incorporate their middle names as well. We had Jenn Lynn, Jenny Lynn, and Jennifer Lynn. (Obviously my mom wasn’t the only one who thought that Lynn went nicely with Jennifer.)

Me? I settled on J-E-double N. Not Jen. That was someone else. I was Jenn.

And so it was for the next 14 years of my life. Until I met Ehren.

David and I had just moved to a new town and were working with a youth ministry. One day we were at an event and I saw Ehren, so I said hello to him.

He responded with, “Hey Jane.”

I said, “Close. It’s Jenn.”

He said, “Nope. It’s Jane.”

I laughed and went on, not really giving it much thought. A few days after that we were at another event. Ehren saw me and said, “Hey Jane.”

This time Ehren’s cousin, Jordon (yes, the same Jordon I wrote about a few days ago) was there. Jordon said, “Isn’t her name Jenn?”

I said, “Yes. It’s Jenn.”

Ehren said, “Nope. It’s Jane.”

Jordon said, “Got it. I’m on it.”

And that pretty much settled it.

Within a few short months I couldn’t go anywhere without having people call me Jane. When I’d walk down the street to check the mail Jordon’s sisters would yell out the window, “Hi Jane!” So all of our neighbors called me Jane.

I would walk by the school and Jordon, Ehren, and all of their friends would yell out, “Hi Jane!” So all of the students and teachers called me Jane.

I even had people come up to me and ask, “I know your name is Jennifer. How did you get Jane from Jennifer?”

My answer was always the same: “Jordon and Ehren.” And that was all that really needed to be said.

(A side note – When my youngest son was born I was so excited to finally be able to use the name Elijah. I had been lobbying for that name for seven years, and David finally agreed. Well, Jordon was at the hospital the day Elijah was born. He was holding him and said, “Elijah. Jah. Jah. JarJar! His name is JarJar.” And I knew resistance was futile.)


As time went on, two very distinct groups formed within our small town: those who called me Jenn, and those who called me Jane.

The ones who saw me dressed up on Sunday mornings with my kids well-groomed and on their best behavior, those people called me Jenn.

The ones who saw me covered in mud while my kids ran around dressed like Darth Vader and occasionally had meltdowns, they called me Jane.

The ones who heard me stand up on Sunday mornings and give a glowing report about how awesome Day Camp was going? They called me Jenn.

But to the ones who were with me at camp day in and day out – dealing with kids and their bloody teeth, singing the same songs a hundred times, and answering awkward questions during cabin devotion times – to them I was Jane.

And the ones who talked about the teenagers and observed them from afar? They all knew me as Jenn.

Yet the ones who talked to the teenagers, who sat at our dinner table with us all, who spent hours around the bonfire with us, who laughed with the teens, prayed for the teens, and yes, at times even cried for the teens –  to them, and to the teens themselves, I was Jane.

Eventually I got to the point where I had to choose. Who was I going to be? Was I going to be Jane or was I going to be Jenn?

The choice was easy.

Several times in the Bible people’s names were changed. Abram, which means “exalted father”, became Abraham, which means “father of many”. Sarai, which means “princess”, became Sarah, which means “noble woman”. And Simon, which means “hearing”, became Peter, which means “rock”.

During our seven years in Portola, my name was also changed. I went from Jennifer, which means “gentle wave”, to Jane, which means “God is gracious”.

And I am more than okay with that.


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