Growing up, I struggled with the fear of death. At times it was all-consuming, paralyzing. Consequently, the older I got, the more I began to struggle with God. God is the author of life, but only in death do we meet him. God grants life to some, while others have it ripped mercilessly away. Some are called to lay down their lives for God, and others seem to inherit every good thing this world has to offer. It all bothered me.
I feared God. I feared death. And I feared life. As I thought about my future, I could only picture death and never life. Never marriage. Never kids.
When I was 22, God met me in a big way. He entered the room I was in, and I literally could not move. I have never been able to adequately describe this experience, but it was profound. Moving. Life-changing. It was a result of three years of deep searching and a year of constant prayer asking God to reveal himself to me. His presence moved over me, and I have never known such peace, such light, such goodness. I said to myself, “This is so good. If this is who God is, what have I been so afraid of?” In that moment every fear, every hindrance, every worry was gone. God told me a few things during that experience, and one of them was, “You are not alone. You will never be alone.” It changed my life.
About a year later, as I was spending quiet time with the Lord, the old feelings of fear and doubt began to come over me, so I began to pray. During that time of prayer, this thought came into my head: “You are going to have a daughter, and her name will be Anastasia.” I’ll be honest: it was weird. There are times when God speaks to me and I am sure it is God. There are times when I think maybe God is speaking, but I’m not sure – perhaps it is just me, wishful thinking, my over-active imagination or random thoughts floating around.
This was a time when I really was not sure, but I thought, “Maybe.” So I looked up Anastasia, and the name meant “resurrection.” I remember having such a great peace and feeling like, if this was true, then this child would be a sign of how my life had been resurrected. I lived in fear of death, but God had promised me good things.
The only person I told about this was my roommate, and she said, “I guess we will see.”
Later on that year I met Kris, and we began dating. We were married exactly three years to the day after my life-changing encounter with God. Fun Fact: I didn’t realize this until I was reading an old journal and I found an entry I had written about that experience. I laughed because I always had assumed that God had meant I would not be alone because He (God) would be with me – it turns out God was giving/telling me even more than I had realized in that moment.
In all this time, I never told Kris about the name Anastasia. In fact, I began wondering if that had even been God speaking, and I wasn’t sure if I even really liked that name as a baby name. When I got pregnant, we began talking about names, and it took a while before I brought it up. One day I decided, why not? I figured he probably wouldn’t like it anyway because we are pretty much opposites with our tastes for anything. As soon as I said, “What about Anastasia?” Kris said, “I love it!” I was surprised but figured it was a fluke, and, anyway, I thought I was having a boy.
I was pretty sure I was having a boy because I had like four dreams about it. Then we went for the ultrasound. The appointment took two hours because our little baby would not cooperate with the tech. After what seemed like an eternity, the woman told us proudly, “It’s a girl!” Laying on the table, looking at my baby, I cried one tear (I’m not a big crier), and I couldn’t have been happier. A girl. I was having a girl, and what better time in the history of the world to be a girl? (I really did think that.) It was perfect.
Then it happened. Kris loved Anastasia. He could not get past the name. He would tell me he just felt like that was our baby’s name. It was the best name. It was the only name. I tried really hard for Piper, Harper, Zoe… but all pretty much got shot down with a consolatory, “Zoe can be our second child’s name. It’s a good second child name.”
Finally, after a couple more months went by, when I realized that this name wasn’t going anywhere, I told Kris about how I had first come up with it. As you can imagine, he loved the name even more after that. Thus began the conversations about middle names. Not to be weirdos,
but sorry kid your parents are pastors and we are weirdos, but we wanted her name to have significance. We wanted her story to be one of life, and our prayer for her became that she would be somebody who would make known God’s great gift of the resurrection – that we do not have to fear death, but can choose life through faith in Jesus. We do not need to fear death because we have HOPE in the resurrection of Jesus. God had given me this hope. Our prayer was that God would give her this hope and that others would know this hope through her.
But I didn’t actually want her middle name to be Hope. Too literal. So then we looked up the Greek word for hope since Anastasia is Greek, and we got “Elpis.” I don’t know how that is pronounced, but in my mind “El Piss.” This was a big fat no. I began to research names that meant hope, and one early morning (poor Kris, bless his soul) I found the name: Laelyn. Pronounced “Lay-Lynne.” It’s Canadian, and, yes, it’s a real name for all of those who have wondered. It means “flower of hope,” and, even more special, it is the combination of both our mothers’ middle names (Leilani and Lynne). Of course, I woke Kris from his slumber and excitedly proclaimed that I had found it.
This pretty much cemented the fact that our baby was Anastasia Laelyn, although we maintained that we would wait to actually name her until after she was born because really…what if she looked like a Zoe?
Little did we know how significant the name Anastasia Laelyn would be…