Finding My Name in His Story

Christmas 1976 with my son Aaron & my mother Helen

When my mother was taken by cancer at the age of 55 and I was 33, there was no estate to divide, no money to deposit, no silver to share. When she was gone, I wasn’t saddened by the loss of anything tangible like an inheritance, but mostly because there were questions I would never have answers to.

That was over 30 years ago and sometimes the melancholy hits me hard.

But each year when Easter comes around again, the Holy Spirit reminds me, “I can bring life from death, joy from sadness…I know what it’s like to feel alone.”

I do have some sentimental possessions from my mother, though. There’s a framed charcoal of a young boy kneeling on the ground holding a daisy in his hand. It hangs on the wall in my hallway and of course every time I see it I think of her. She said she bought it because it reminded her of my son Aaron, her first grandchild (the one on the rocking horse above.)
I also have my mother’s falling-apart Bible, given to her on her February birthday, along with scores of letters. These are precious treasures she left behind.

But the most important legacy? My name. When she passed, though, I felt unsettled about this piece of my life. I never knew the story of who I was named after. 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 never heard the history, the whys, the whos, of my name.  There was no connection to the past, no legacy left to me via family; I didn’t like that because names matter.

I wondered ~ my mother was Helen Elizabeth and I got neither name.  I was Joanna Lee–Where did ‘Joanna’ come from? And how did I become ‘Jody’? I had been called that all the years I can remember. (Of course, when I was little I was called by my ‘in trouble name’, “Joanna Lee!” )

“Who was I named after, anyway?” kept coming back to me.

Fast forward to my own grandchildren, who were given 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 after my mother died to find 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?! Wow.

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 is true and there is a resurrection and living hope and a Redeemer who buys back all those years, wasting none of our tears.  He knows us before we are born and names us on purpose. 

God. Redeems. It. All.

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16 thoughts on “Finding My Name in His Story

  1. marlece

    To think Joanna was one of the first to see Jesus after he arose….that would get me thru a day right there. I love this!

  2. Duane Scott

    Oh Joanna Lee… 🙂

    I like your name.

    A believer in midst of all the unbelievers. Eyes who first saw Jesus redeemed.

    You have a purpose, a beautiful purpose!

  3. Jody Lee Collins

    What a small world. It's so seldom that I meet someone who is 'Jody with a y.'
    And a teacher. smile.

    Thanks for reading and commenting, Dianne.

  4. Dianne

    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.


  5. Jennifer @

    A beautiful, grace-filled discovery about your name. I so enjoyed this post. Thank you for being a part of #TellHisStory and committing to doing such good work here in this space. Love, Jennifer

  6. Leah Johnson

    You made me cry momma, I love you 🙂 I'm SO blessed to know you and you know me and I learn more about you every time you post 🙂

  7. Shelly Miller

    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.

  8. Mia De Vries

    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

  9. Dionne

    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!

  10. Nancy

    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.

  11. Beth

    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!

  12. Valerie Freer

    A most poignant piece, 'Joanna Lee.' Brought tears to my eyes, and heart…

    And that place called, “sister.”

  13. Kristin Hill Taylor

    What a wonderful discovery! I love names, and I love that you discovered such meaning in yours. God truly is in the details.

  14. MrsP

    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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