Growing up I remember when I had a crush on a boy I would write my first name with his last name in order to practice my new signature just in case we might have a future. Being very traditional when I married my college sweetheart the thought of keeping my maiden name never occurred to me.  The possibility of that marriage ending was also not something I imagined either.  If you don’t think you’ll ever be faced with the prospect of changing your name again the first change doesn’t seem like any effort at all.

Then life happens in ways that are tragic and ways that are blessed and through it all hanging on to your identity can be a very interesting experience.  What seems like a simple decision to change your name again can end up feeling weird or as my oldest son said, “Sounding weird!”

I didn’t like that comment coming from him.  I thought my first name and new last name had a nice ring but teenagers aren’t always tactful.  I also know that he was feeling very loyal to his father and struggling with some of the issues around his identity and me re-marrying so I was gracious about it.

Before the wedding I thought through some of the name issues since lots of folks asked what I was going to do.  Those same people asking the questions also had lots of ideas which I listened to but I’d already decided.  I believe today, just like I did when I was much younger, that it is an honor to take your husband’s name when you get married.  I also believe that in marriage two become one and changing your name reflects this.  I realize not everyone feels the way I do and that doesn’t trouble me at all.  If one of my boy’s marries a gal that doesn’t want to change her name I can respect her decision.

Changing your name isn’t the easiest thing anymore.  It’s funny that you can change your name on a credit card without any proof that you have a legal reason for doing so but to change your name on a prescription for an antihistamine is a big deal.  Changing the name on your frequent flier accounts is tougher than changing your name on your passport.  I don’t know if I’ll ever make sense of it all but I’ve tried to have a good sense of humor about it.

The paperwork name changes are one thing and then you have to get used to using your new name in conversation.  That’s where I’ve had a harder time.  On occasion it’s just a matter of forgetting like you do when a new year rolls around.  Other times though I find that I hesitate in conversation because I want to say I’m Karen Blanton now but I used to be a Davis before I was even a Ledebur.  I have a family and whole life history of my own.  It’s a blessing to be a part of the Blanton clan but I have people too. I’m not just some drifter they adopted.

Doesn’t that sound crazy?  At first that’s how I felt when these feelings were surfacing.  As I’ve been sorting through them trying to making sense of it all I’ve realized that what I’m dealing with here is fear.  I’m afraid that my identity will be eclipsed by my husband’s and that somehow in that process who I am and who I’m connected to will be lost.   Those connections have been so important to me.

I find myself living in a place where nobody really “knows” me or my history.  I want to tell everyone I meet that I’m more than just Bill’s wife.  I’m a daughter, a sister, a mother, an aunt, a cousin, a niece, a friend, and a very new stepmom.   To some I’m Karen,  to my boys I’m Mom, to many of my friends I’m Kady, and only to my husband am I “darling”.

I’ve been in a situation similar to this before and it was when I moved from California to Colorado.  My name hadn’t changed but I felt like I’d lost my identity anyway.  I’d pulled up my anchors and moved knowing God had told me to but I still felt like I was floating around unknown and unconnected for a long time.  My sense of self and the continuity it brought my personality felt severely challenged then and it does now.

I think this is the reason changing my name has been a little weird for me because everything else in my life has changed also and I don’t feel grounded yet.  I feel this need to hang onto my past because the connection to my future feels so lose and disconnected.

The rub here is that I know the place of blessing is always out in front of you.  Hanging on to your past keeps your hands behind your back and you can’t embrace the future that way.   You have to let go and walk through that fear of sinking into the unknown or being unknown.

For me looking back has helped because I can see that even during the tough transition times Colorado was a place of great blessing for me.   While I didn’t realize it at the time I have come to understand that the blessing did have something to do with my name and my identity.   Not the names man has given or the worldly identity I thought I might have had.  It was the name God has for me and the way He sees me.  The same holds true for me now.

That name is His beloved because I am dear to his heart.  I am cherished.  My name is in His book and it doesn’t matter how many times it changes or where I live He won’t ever forget me or mistake me for anyone else.  He created what makes me unique and He will continue to nurture that.  He knows my past, my present, and my future and will connect me to it.  I will bloom no matter where He has planted me or what I’m called if I’m rooted to Him.  My identity comes from how he sees me not man.

Perhaps we all struggle with this a bit more than we realize?  If you take a look at your life and it feels as though your self-worth always fluctuates maybe your identity is tied to something other than God. What is it?  Your title at work, your home, your car, your physique, who you know, where you live or what you’ve accomplished?  Is your reputation based on these things as opposed to your relationship with the One who created you?

Maybe it’s time then for you to remember, along with me, that man was only given the opportunity to name every living creature AFTER God formed them and our formative years are not behind us.  As long as we are living God is constantly working to form us into His image.  What we are called doesn’t change who we are.

So what’s in a name you ask?  Not much really just our imaginations which can sometimes be a little vain.

  1. I was born Bruce Conrad McDonnell. When my step father adopted me my last name became Davis. There are thousands of people named Bruce Davis including the Bruce Davis that was part of the Charles Manson gang of killers. That Bruce Davis is still in prison.

    The name Bruce Conrad McDonnell suits me. It has a certain ring to it, and, keeping my Scottish heritage in mind, makes sense. Sometimes I consider changing my name back to the name I was born with but then I consider the difficulty and use Bruce Conrad McDonnell when it suits me.

    Bruce C. Davis, aka Bruce Conrad McDonnell, aka Dad

  2. Well, as you know, I totally understand the name thing, and I also understand how it feels to uproot and settle down somewhere new. And, I should also tell you, that as I was cleaning and prepping for Thanksgiving, I found an old photo of you and me that I have carried with me from place to place to place for as long as I can remember. I’m going to put it up on Facebook just so you know that you and me? We go way back, and we both know where the other one came from. Love to you, my dear and sweet cousin, and, more importantly, my friend, no matter what your last name may be. 🙂

  3. I think names are very important and I encourage people to change them if they’re name isn’t working for them. Sometimes it can make all the difference in the world. However, as your post notes, it is a very personal decision and everyone may take a different path. Regarding women and their last name’s, I don’t know if most women realize that the right to maintain your birth name upon marriage is something that women before us fought for the right to do. A little like the women’s suffrage movement. Here’s a post I wrote on this topic:

    I wish you the best in whatever you decide.

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