It’s All In A Name

My legal name is not the name I was given at birth. My name was changed somewhat by accident before I began first grade. When my parents found out they were pregnant with me, they decided that they wanted to renew their commitment to each other and their relationship. My birth was to be a new beginning for them; and this wasn't surprising because the whole world was on the brink of new beginnings in 1960. So, Mom and Dad wanted this commitment to be reflected in my name; my name was to be a combination of both their names. The J represented the first initial of my father's name, Jasper: and the A represented the first initial of my mother's name, Arlevia.

I was named Jo-Anne at birth, and my father wanted the family to call me Jo. When they brought me home from the hospital, he told my brothers and sisters to always look after me and take care of me because I was the youngest. This admonition proved to be a foreshadowing because my parents recommitment to each other proved to be short-lived; my father died three years after I was born. Maybe it was despondency that caused my mother to ignore having the mistake on my birth certificate changed when she received it from the state of Mississippi. The state left out the hyphen, the capital A, and the second n in my name, thus making Jo-Anne to become Joan. When in first grade, my teacher asked me what I wished to be called, I told her Joan. I don't know why I did that but I did. What's in a name? A lot. The two names mean totally different things; Jo-Anne means wild, while Joan means Gift of God. Throughout my life I have wrestled with am I Joan or Jo-Anne; and for the most part, I believe I am Joan. When I am restless and searching for meaning in everything, I am Jo-Anne. The endless need for adventure in me is Jo-Anne.

When I seek God for direction in my life down to the minor detail, I am Joan. When I give up my own desires or wants for the sake of someone else or when I seek to heal those who are hurting; I am Joan. I wouldn't take anything for the name change I received early in life. God changed my name because he knew a character change would take place at some point in my life. I would not change my name because my parents put a lot of thought into deciding my name.

To this day, the only people who call me Jo-Anne are my immediate family members. I thank God for naming me, for calling me, for setting the path of my life in motion early and for being with me no matter which name I may at any time embrace.

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