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Faith, Names

In A Name – Kavannah Abigail

A few weeks ago in church the speaking pastor made a comment about how in our culture “names don’t really mean anything,” people usually just pick them because they like the sound of them – the pastor and his wife included. And I laughed to myself. By now you know that meaning is central to how we choose our children’s names, so that morning just confirmed that we’re the crazies in our world. No shame.

If you’re just joining in, you can catch up on the stories behind our older two sons’ names, Gavrel and Declan.

Long before we’d chosen either of the boys’ names, Jon and I watched some close friends walk through a hard, hard season when they lost a baby girl. They had chosen a name for their daughter taken from an old Rabbinical word that describes the constant, intentional practice and awareness of the presence of God in every aspect of life. It was a concept our friends had taken from a ministry training, and it so beautifully described how they had to fully rely on God during their loss.

Almost exactly a year later, Jon and I discovered we were pregnant with Gavrel (even if we didn’t know it was Gavrel yet). We hadn’t stumbled into our naming process yet, but very early had a name come to mind that we both loved: Kavannah – the name of our friends’ daughter. We loved the sound (it’s pronounced more like the Irish surname “Cavanaugh”), the meaning, and the legacy of faith that came with it. With our friends’ blessing and permission, we agreed that we would love to use the name if we ever had a little girl.

So we sat on the name for a few years while we had boys. Around the time we were discussing having a third baby, I had several friends who were struggling with infertility or miscarriage. I mourned with a lot of friends that year. I found myself praying one morning, “Lord, there is so much pain around me. How do I celebrate this next baby while so many are hurting?” And the reassurance in my spirit was “Celebrate! Rejoice over this baby. You have no idea the healing and joy they will bring into life.” And so we paired the middle name Abigail, meaning “the joy of her Father.”

Kavannah Abigail – the intentional awareness of the presence of the God who delights in her. She remains the only one of our children to have her name come together before she existed, but we can’t imagine her being anything else. She is as unique a little creature as her name – deep, thoughtful, content, loving, joyful, and independent. Someone in whom God is richly present. She’s pretty great.

Kids, Names

In a Name: Declan Ezekiel

I’ve talked before about how we choose our children’s names, and how we sort of stumbled into the process while pregnant with our firstborn: Gavrel Lagersen. So here’s the next chapter in the story.

When we discovered I was pregnant for the second time, our friends and community seemed to think it was the most natural thing in the world – of course we were having another baby! But after all the fanfare and rejoicing over my first pregnancy, I wondered if this baby would be overlooked. After such powerful prayers over Gavrel, would this kiddo have just as big a mission in life? One Sunday morning during church, I was praying “Lord, this baby is just as precious to me as Gavrel. I want this baby to be celebrated and rejoiced over like Gavrel was!”

In that moment, God reminded me “I am rejoicing over this little one just as much. They are loved beyond measure.” As I looked up, I saw some good family friends standing at the front of the worship center as part of the weekly prayer team, and felt prompted to go ask them to pray for our baby. I’m not sure I did a great job expressing what I was feeling in that moment, but they seemed to understand my desire for baby to be celebrated and rejoiced over.

As they prayed, they began to declare that this baby would be “courageous and strong in spirit.” And I knew that this was going to be the foundation for our name. Listening to who God said our baby was and choosing a name to fit that meaning had worked so well the first time, we figured we should probably keep running with it. So we sat on these words and mulled them over for a while.

I had a name I had come across while digging through lists the first time that I couldn’t quite shake. I loved the sound of it, and I loved the meaning. But it didn’t literally mean anything like “courageous” or “strong.” So I started back through our short lists of names that we hadn’t used for Gavrel, to see what was there. That’s when I found a middle name we’d tagged – Ezekiel – “God will strengthen.” When I paired this with the name I’d been sitting on, it painted a bigger picture. Declan – “man of prayer” became:

Declan Ezekiel – “man of prayer strengthened by God.” This described the spiritual strength and courage we were looking for – in the context of dependence on and communication with a relational God.

And this kiddo is who God said he would be. He is brave – sometimes to a fault. He is courageous. He loves to pray for his friends and family. He feels deeply and understands spiritual things in incredible depth. I can’t wait to see who he continues to become.

Kids, Names

In A Name – Gavrel Lagersen

I shared a couple weeks ago just how we stumbled into the process we use for choosing names for our children. Most people know that our kids have unusual names and most people know that their meanings are particularly important to us, but most people haven’t heard the whole back story. If you missed it the first time, go check it out.

I shared that after more than a dozen different people, in unrelated times and places all prayed the words “prophet” and “worshiper” over our first baby, we decided that we should sit up and take notice. Maybe this was something God wanted to say about this kiddo. We felt like our extended families had most of the good prophet names covered (some of them multiple times). So we decided to focus our search on the “worshipper” aspect.

We started with an off-the-shelf baby name book and found… nothing. So we bought a Christian baby name book that came a lot closer and had some great other suggestions, but still didn’t quite have what we were looking for. (It’s still a resource we go back to each time looking for ideas, though, if you are looking for a good jumping-off point.) So we did what any other good tech-generation parents-to-be would do: we went to Google.

Turns out, there are a lot of names in other religious cultures that mean worshiper – namely Muslim, Sanskrit, or Hindu. Again, that wasn’t quite what we were going for. Finally, after months of varying search terms, following links, digging through lists, and following all sorts of internet rabbit trails through background stories, we stumbled on an old Russian name that meant “Worshiper of God”: Gavrel. I’ll admit that Jon was much more strongly attracted to it than I was at first. But the more I sat on it and prayed, the more right it seemed. There were other names I liked the sound of better, but they just didn’t belong to this child.

It really clicked for me when Jon approached me one night with another idea. “I know you don’t necessarily want to use family names, but I have one I’ve been thinking about that I would really like to at least consider using.” Ok? “Lagersen. It’s my grandpa’s middle name. It was his mother’s maiden name.” Jon’s grandpa was a medical missionary to Hong Kong, founding a hospital there. I didn’t want to use family names because I didn’t want something that had been repeated over and over, but this name seemed to subtly pay tribute to someone who had taken the name of Jesus to the nations – a specific prayer over our baby – without being a standard “prophet” name. When I said it aloud together, I knew it was right:

Gavrel Lagersen. Our worshiper prophet to the nations.

It’s a big name. When he was born, people didn’t understand – they asked what we would call him, assuming we had a much more familiar nickname picked out. But we just call him Gavrel. He knows, even at a young age, what his name means and why we chose it. And we pray that it’s a legacy he can continue to grow into.

Faith, Names, Parenting

In a Name

If you know me, you know that my kids have weird names. Even if you don’t know me, well… my kids have weird names. When people meet us for the first time and we introduce everyone, we get a lot of “wows” or “those are really interesting names.” Inevitably, someone always asks,

“Where did you come up with those?”

It is both one of my favorite and least favorite questions. I love to tell the stories behind my kids’ names, but the stranger in the grocery store probably doesn’t want the full download. So my easy, fast answer is “we choose them based on their meanings,” which is both true and yet oversimplified.

So, for inquiring minds who want to know, here’s just how we came to our particular naming method.

When we announced that we were expecting our first baby, the crowds went wild – everyone we knew was so excited. We have an incredible community that loves to pray powerfully for each other, so people were pretty quick to start asking “Can I pray for your baby?” The first time was incredible as phrases like “a mighty worshiper of God,” “a gifted prophet to the nations,” and “declaring the Word of the Lord from the mountaintop” came out through my friend’s prayers.

But over and over again through the next several months, the phrases “worshiper” and “prophet” repeated themselves – to the tune of a dozen or more individual people praying at different times and in different places. Finally, Jon and I looked at each other and said “Maybe we should take this seriously.”

We’d been looking at baby names, trying to find some that we liked. The meaning of a name was important to us, but not our starting point. As we began to take note of the repeated patterns of people’s prayers, we decided to try something crazy. What if we started with the meaning? What if we took what we believed God was saying about this child and who he/she was, and picked a name to reflect that? And so we began our search.

Let me tell you, it adds an interesting layer of challenge to choosing a name. Searching for a specific meaning narrows your options very quickly. Sometimes it leads you to some unusual names – which, thankfully, we like. But since then, we’ve always started in prayer over each child. We ask “God, who is this person you’ve created? Who and what have you called them to be? How do you want us to speak into them and their life and legacy?” When we feel like we have a consensus through prayer, we dig in to find a name that reflects that.

I always loved that this would give us a chance as parents to speak legacy, calling, and greatness into our children’s lives. But an unexpected benefit has been how often we get to share our own hearts with others – often strangers or unbelievers. A candidly curious response to a name can very quickly open deep conversations about what it important and meaningful to us. It’s a very different process than most people take, and we acknowledge that.

We trust that God knows and loves these kiddos even more than we do and has a lot to say about who they are. We’re just following his lead, and that seems to be working out pretty well so far.