Monday, April 27, 2015

What's in a Name?

What follows is a brief memoir of how we settled on the name John Edward Nalle.

We didn't cross the ocean with a list of boy names in our pocket. So when the road we were traveling took a sharp, unexpected turn, we lacked a map to guide us to the right name.

Choosing the right names has always been important to us. Up till now, we've always taken a long time to debate each child's name, and we have fond memories of each naming process.

This time was different. First, the breakneck pace of international adoption meant that after our sharp turn, we didn't have the luxury of time. Second, our new little boy shared a name with Aaron: both boys were originally named Ivan, familiarized as Vanya.

"Aaron," of course, was Aaron's temporary name on Reece's Rainbow. After using that name in prayers and fundraisers for months, we hardly thought of changing it. The name seemed to fit the boy perfectly. Plus it fit with our other boys' Hebrew names: Benjamin, Elijah and Aaron.

Aaron's middle name, "Vanya," was a political decision. Desperate to please the nationalist judge who was to preside at Aaron's adoption hearing, we decided to retain "Vanya" as a link to Aaron's native culture. How much that decision swayed our judge, if at all, we will never know.

Naturally, we wondered if our new boy might like to retain the name "Ivan." After all, he's 10 years old, and has used that name all his life. Why would he want to change it now?

On the other hand, there was no way we could manage with two Vanyas in the house.

His middle name was of little use to us, being an Eastern European patronymic that most Americans could hardly pronounce-- including us. So the heat was on: we had to come up with two new names from scratch, and we had to do it fast.

John's temporary name on Reece's Rainbow was "Ian." We liked that name, but preferred something that would (a) tie him to our family, and (b) still fit our Hebrew theme. So we decided to offer him a version of the Hebrew name "Johanon." In U**an, it's "Ivan"; in Gaelic, "Iain" or "Ian"; and in English, just plain "John." One of Julia's grandfathers was a John, so the name ties him to Julia's side of the family.

We wanted his middle name to tie him to Rob's side of the family. That one was easy: Edward, in honor of Rob's late father, gone just four years.

This was how matters stood when our facilitator told our new Vanya that he couldn't keep his old name. We were half expecting him to be upset, but we were also so exhausted that we couldn't think of any other names to offer him.

Much to our delight, we discovered that he didn't care at all. As it turned out, the boy was so excited about finally having a family that he probably would have accepted whatever we proposed. So when our facilitator asked him if he liked "John," he simply said "Okay." "Are you sure?" she pressed him. "Okay," he nodded.

At this point, our facilitator realized that the sky was pretty much the limit. So she started throwing out other nice American names:

"How about Michael Jackson?" "Okay."

"Or Justin Bieber?" "Okay." "Or Scott, or..."


"John," we said. "Let's just go with John."

"John?" she asked him.

"Yes, John. Okay!"

That's more or less how we arrived at John Edward Nalle.

A bit of study revealed the origin of the Hebrew name "Johanon": it means "the Lord is gracious." How very fitting. The Lord truly is gracious!

Four sons, each with a Hebrew name: Benjamin, Elijah, Aaron and John.

The Lord is gracious indeed!


  1. I should have known you knew about "Ian" :o)
    My son Ian loved that Elizabeth was John's mother in the bible and his mother was Elizabeth. LOL!
    I LOVE his name! John Edward Nalle is perfect!
    How adorable that he was willing to accept any name as long as he had a family. I'm crying again. Your U** boys have such touching stories to share now with the world!
    (((HUGS))) praying!

  2. Had to laugh at the "Justin Bieber" one. LOL! So glad you chose John!!!!

    Oh, and have you noticed that (just like your boys) their names get smaller in size? :)

  3. My lovely grandpa was John Edward so if names are anything to go by you have guaranteed a strong, compassionate, loving & funny man for your gorgeous boy to grow into :)

  4. KEEP 'EM COMING, JULIA! These posts have me jumping for joy!!! xo kelly


Loving words from kind people make our hearts glad!