Finding my Name in His Story

See the rocking lion in that photo?  My mother bought it for our son Aaron for his first Christmas.  It was hand made. One of a kind.  And I gave it away. Sold it probably at a garage sale.

That was 35 years ago and it still makes me sad.  I think about being it able to pass it down to my grandchildren, but it’s gone forever. Oh, the dumb things you do when you’re young.

There are other questions I have no answers to, memories that make me sad, never to be retrieved.  Sometimes the melancholy will hit me and God reminds me as Easter comes around again, “I can bring life from death, joy from sadness…I saw you then, I see you now. Trust me.”

When my mother was taken by cancer at the age of 55 (I was 33) she didn’t leave us much. There was no estate to divide, to money to deposit, no silver to share.

By then she had outlasted four marriages and was a single woman of little means.  During her illness she spent time with my 4 brothers and sisters and I, bequeathing what few keepsakes she did have to each of us, chosen especially by her.

I was given a framed charcoal drawing of a young boy kneeling on the ground, holding a daisy in his hand. She said it reminded her of my son Aaron, her first grandchild.

So, I have a hand drawn keepsake and my mother’s Bible, both treasures I cherish which remind me of her. 

And she left me with my name…….Joanna Lee. 

I was unsettled by that after she passed–I had no idea who I was named after. My mother was Helen Elizabeth and I got neither name.  Where did ‘Joanna’ come from?  And how did I become ‘Jody’? 

It never occurred to me to ask her while she was alive (and my birth father was not in the picture–he left us when I was 5); now it was too late.

I didn’t have the best history with my mother.

I left home when I was 18 and she had husband number four on the horizon.  
A year later I had found Jesus; scratch that–Jesus found me.

I subsequently alienated myself in no short order from not only my mother but my siblings as well in my over-zealous, abnormal, un-Christian Christian behaviour. (Ouch. Sad memory number one.)

I was married at the age of 19, seven months after my salvation experience and moved five hours away from the rest of my family. There was no connection between my mother and I in the ensuing years except around the holidays or our birthdays, with the occasional cards and phone calls.

I felt flattened and empty when my mother died not because we had been so close (as if there were so much missing), but because we hadn’t(and there wasn’t much there). Sad memory Number Two.  Mothers and daughters are supposed to be close. And I had young children. And where was she now when I needed her and why couldn’t I ask her about…….??

So Cal beach day, son Aaron 5 ish, daughter Leah 2

Ask her about my childhood–well, my birthhood, my babyhood.  When did learn to walk?  What did I like to eat? Did I sleep through the night? Have colic?

“And who was I named after, anyway,” kept coming back to me.

I had been called Jody all the years I can remember. Of course, when I was little I was called by my real name, the ‘in trouble name’, “Joanna Lee!”  Like that.

I never heard the history, the whys, the whos, of my name.  No connection to the past, no legacy left to me via family.  Un attached.

I didn’t like that because names matter.

My five grandchildren were given some remarkable on purpose names, Biblical names, as were my son and daughter.  Each one turned out to be a truer fit than we could have ever imagined–they match their namesakes perfectly.

Yes, names matter.

So imagine my joy when one day several years later I found my name in the Bible right there in God’s story.

Luke Chapter 8 records this about the ministry of Jesus:

“1 And it came to pass afterward, that he went throughout every city and village, preaching and shewing the glad tidings of the kingdom of God: 
and the twelve were with him,
And certain women, which had been healed of evil spirits and infirmities, 
Mary called Magdalene, out of whom went seven devils,
And Joanna the wife of Chuza Herod’s steward, 
and Susanna, and many others, which ministered unto him of their substance.”

Joanna was a believer in Herod’s palace?  In the middle of all those unbelievers?

She is mentioned again on the first Easter morning in Luke Chapter 24:
“8 And they remembered his words,
And returned from the sepulchre, and told all these things unto the eleven, 
and to all the rest.
10 It was Mary Magdalene and Joanna, and Mary the mother of James, 
and other women that were with them, which told these things unto the apostles.”

Joanna was one of the first 3 women to see Jesus alive after the Resurrection?!

How God must have loved her–what a joy that she should be singled out and her name recorded there.

Reading these words, God spoke to me clearly that HE knew me before I was born, He planned my birth and my name, even if my parents didn’t know Him at the time.

It turns out my mother left me with so much more than ‘just’ my name, a charcoal drawing and her Bible–she gave me a legacy that was spoken before I was born. A forthtelling of who I would be–the best of names–a Christian–‘little Christ’. 

Yes, Easter and resurrection and living hope and a redeemer who buys back all those years, wasting none of our tears.  It’s all true.

God. Redeems. It. All.
**by God’s good grace,through a lot of honest talk and tears, I can say thankfully and happily I am very close to my brothers and sisters now and have been for many years.
God redeems everything–even (especially!) our stupid mistakes!

Linking up with Jennifer et al with the story people

16 thoughts on “Finding my Name in His Story

  1. Hey Jody,
    I was just reading about Mary Magdalene this week and especially noticed “Joanna.” I had noticed her name before but had forgotten it. One of my best friends, a teacher I team-taught with, is named Joanna and her nickname is Jody. I love that you have the same name as her.

    I really enjoyed your post–so glad we got to know one another.



  2. Jody, I enjoyed your story. There are things I would like answers to as well and things I may never know regarding my history. But I suppose the only thing that matters is that we are called Beloved. What a gift He gave you when he spoke meaning into your name.


  3. Hi Joanna
    Yes, dear one, knowing the special meaning of one's name can be such a blessing. My name, Mia, means “My Own”.
    I love knowing I am my Heavenly Father's own girl and can hear Him whisper that I am His own. Found you at Jennifer's.
    Blessing to you XX


  4. thank you for sharing something so personal. I feel like I know you a little more. I think you would enjoy Eva J. Gibson's Bible Study called, The Three Mary's…it goes into GREAT detail of the women surrounding Jesus' life on earth…so good. I am so happy that you found peace and answers and oh yes, how God redeems it all. Love your post and thank you for always encouraging me in Christ!


  5. Oh my goodness! This just gave me goosebumps. I'm so grateful for the privilege of reading this piece of your story, even though pieces of it are hard–very hard. And your name–Joanna! The believer amid unbelievers. Coincidence? I think not.

    By the way, I'm named after Frank Sinatra's daughter. I think many women of my age were. As a child, I couldn't turn around without bumping into another Nancy. Now no one names her daughter Nancy anymore.


  6. I big smile came to my face when reading of your discovery. It was clearly felt through your words how much peace that gave you. A beautiful name!


  7. Yes, names are important, and so is coming to a place of peace regarding a relationship with mother that might have been, but wasn't. Been there…both places.
    Bless you, girl.


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