The Church Year

Finding My Name~an Easter Week Story

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. After she was gone, I wasn’t saddened by the loss of anything tangible like an inheritance, but because there were questions I would never have answers to.

For instance, where did my name come from?

When my mother passed, I felt unsettled about this piece of my life. The older I got, my identity and family history became more and more important. I had never heard the background, the whys or whos of my name.  There was no connection to the past, no legacy left via family stories with the particulars. This left me feeling un-moored– although I’d been Jody as long as I could remember, certainly she had intentionally chosen the name Joanna, but why?

It never occurred to me to ask my her while she was alive.

My mother was Helen Elizabeth. Names matter; and I got neither name. I really would have liked Elizabeth, perhaps for a middle name. No, I was Joanna Lee–Where did ‘Joanna’ come from? And how did I become ‘Jody’? (Of course when I was little I was called by my ‘in trouble name’, “Joanna Lee!”)

The question remained, Who was I named after? So imagine my joy when several years after my mother died, I read the name ‘Joanna’ in the passage in Luke recalling Jesus’ resurrection story. 

Luke Chapter 8 records:

“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.”

My namesake discovery assured me that although my parents may not have taught me who I was and how or why I was named, God named me before I was even born.

And each year when Easter comes around, I am reminded, Joanna was one of the first three women to see Jesus alive after the Resurrection?! That was a legacy worth banking on. God had 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, she gave me a legacy spoken before I was born. A forthtelling of who I would be–the best of names–a Christian, ‘little Christ’–even if it took me 19 years to welcome that identity.

The fact of Easter is true~there is a resurrection and we have a Redeemer who buys back all our wandering years.  He knows us before we are born and names us on purpose. We are in God’s story, written before time began. 


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  • Nancy Ruegg

    Tears prickled my eyes as I read this. How gracious is our God to reveal to you the import of your name, intentionally chosen for you before time began. Because I’m curious, I just now researched the meaning of your name (which I’m sure you already know!): “God is gracious!” OH MY!! Look what I typed at the beginning of the second sentence here–before I searched for your name-meaning!! But God’s grace to you only began with your name. Look at what he’s accomplished through your family, your music, your involvement in ministries, your WRITING, and more! You are a poster-woman for the power of God’s grace in a person’s life. And your name is definitely a reflection of that!

    • Jody Lee Collins

      Nancy, tears pricked m y eyes as I read this. My friend you are always the encourager and this made my day. And thank you for the confirmation about my name. Now to live like that daily–being gracious. Only with God’s strength!

  • Laurie Klein

    How tenderly poignant and potent, a small resurrection—finding oneself, by name, literally written into as well as grafted into The Story. A blessing to read this, Jody. Thank you for sharing.

    • Jody Lee Collins

      “A small resurrection” oh, I like that Laurie. Thank you. And yes, it’s a bit mind boggling that God wrote our names into His Story from the beginning….

  • Barbara Hunt Rowe

    Wow, that is so cool, Jody!

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