If Will and I have a baby girl, her name will be Virginia. I've been wanting for sometime to articulate why, and like so many things in my life, writing is the easiest way to do this.
Oddly, using the name Virginia comes from another name...one from the Bible. Many of us have grown up singing the second verse of the popular hymn "Come Thou Fount" without ever knowing what in the world an "Ebenezer" is. In 1 Samuel 7:12 we are told that after God had delivered his people from the Philistines, "Samuel took a stone and set it up between Mizpah and Shen and called its name Ebenezer; for he said, 'Till now the Lord has helped us'" (ESV). Samuel was drawing a line in the sand. Creating an altar. Reminding himself and his people of God's faithfulness to that point and thus pointing them to the fact that they could trust His faithfulness moving forward. Once I learned the meaning behind this word, it changed the way I sang the hymn and caused me to ponder what the "Ebenezers" in my life might be.
I've said for years that (until Will) the greatest proof and reminder to me of God's faithfulness and sovereignty in my life is my journey to and through Virginia--both the state and the school. When I was 15 I decided that I would attend the University of Virginia for college. This became my goal--it's what motivated me to study, to participate in extra-curriculars, to attempt to play volleyball well. I didn't get in...twice. Early Admission: deferred. Regular Admission: Wait Listed. I never came off that wait list. It was the first time in my life I'd been truly disappointed. That I'd wanted something so badly and had failed. And it humbled me at a time in my life when I very much needed to be humbled.
So, this child will be named for humility.
That failure to get into UVA led me to Auburn where I had the best four years of college anyone has ever had. Ever. Come at me if you'd like to argue. I majored in History--specializing in American History which, in case you've forgotten, involved studying a good bit about Virginia. I met amazing people, had incredible experiences, and made best friends that will be with me for the rest of my life. It provided me an opportunity to share an experience with my parents and sister that has become something treasured we share together.
So, this child will be named, although indirectly, for my undergraduate alma mater and my family--for those life-changing friendships and experiences at Auburn and the gift the is a shared experience among family members.
After college I moved to Falls Church, Virginia to participate in a Fellows Program. While I was craving the content of the program, I was pretty sure that I was full to the brim on friends and needed no more. I was wrong. I met more amazing people, specifically six women who have enriched my life in ways I cannot fully express. In addition the program itself, as well as the subsequent two years I spent in Northern Virginia, opened my eyes and shaped me significantly. My time there allowed a part of myself to grow and blossom that, I firmly believe, could not have done so in another setting.
So, this child will be named for more life-changing friendships and the time I spend learning to know and experience God in ways I'd never imagined.
Once I left Northern Virginia, the Lord completely redeemed my experience at the University of Virginia where I applied, was accepted, attended, and graduated with a Masters of Education in Higher Education. It was only a year, but at age 26 I was finally able to realize a dream I'd dreamed for 11 years. During that year my "relationship" with Virginia was put into such a new, eternal perspective. UVA, like any other place this side of Heaven, has warts and imperfections. However, it is also so much of what I'd imagined it would be as a leader in higher education. Charlottesville is a picturesque town with incredible people, beautiful mountains, and a vibrant local culture. It is home to one of America's greatest founding fathers and presidents and my history-loving self relished in all it had to offer. I realized that at age 18 I might not have appreciated it the way I did at 25 and 26. And once again, I met wonderful people who helped me learn, think, and grow and who God used to continue to shape and mold me into who He has created me to be.
So, yes, this child will be named, in part, for the University of Virginia and what it and its people have meant to me as a 15 year old, a 26 year old, and now a 32 year old.
Upon graduating from the University of Virginia I stayed 14 more months in the Commonwealth. I took a job at an all-male, small liberal arts college in the extremely rural town of Farmville, Virginia: Hampden-Sydney College. I knew no one when I took the job. I had no place to live. I ended up renting a duplex off a dirt road where the only television was satellite and there was no garbage pick up service. As a 26 year old single girl I went to work at a place where there were no other females my age. My friends became a group of Hampden-Sydney alums who were all vastly different from one another and from me. We did things like play Settlers of Catan until our eyes bled, hang out at the swimming pool outside the guest cottage one of them was renting, watch DIII basketball and pray for the home team to score more than 100 points so we could get free Bojangles, and listen to a lot of music. These guys took me in as family. They welcomed me with open arms and loved me well. I didn't invite any generic "guy friends" to my wedding, but I invited them. Although they were different than me and some of them hold different beliefs from me, they were the hands and feet of Jesus to me for those 14 months. They loved me without asking (m)any questions. They also allowed me a lot of time to myself (I can't hang out with dudes ALL the time). I had plenty of afternoons and nights to work on myself, to spend time delving into things that interested me, to read and pray and study God's word. It was the most alone time I'd ever had and the most I will probably ever have.
So, this child will be named for boldness. For going into unknown situations and new adventures trusting the Lord will provide what you need. For learning about yourself and about God and about who He made you to be.
Since moving back to Alabama from Virginia in 2012, I've had incredible professional and personal experiences--the greatest of which was of course meeting and marrying Will. I can now say he is the greatest proof I have of God's faithfulness and sovereignty in my life. And as I reflect on my life thus far, I can say with confidence that "till this point, the Lord has helped me." So now when I sing "here I lay my Ebenezer, hither by Thy help I come," I am reminded of my journey from age 15-26 to and through Virginia. I am also reminded of the man God made to be my husband, to fulfill such a great desire of my heart. And when I look at our daughter, I will rejoice and give thanks for God's faithfulness and provision to this point and claim it for all three of us in the days and years to come.