At the start of the new year, I wrote that my “word” for this year..and last year…and the year before that.. has been joy. Not long before that, I had written a poem that would become part one of this Finding my Name series of posts. There, I promised the story would be continued.
I asked my mother to tell this story herself for a few reasons: I wanted to hear it in her own words, and I knew she would remember the details much better than I can from the tellings and retellings throughout my life. But most of all, although it is my name’s story, a large part of it is more her own story than mine.
It’s a story I feel unworthy to be part of; God’s grace extended, turning beaten to beatific and using me to fulfill a promise to his own precious daughter. Thanks for reading.
Brynna’s Name Story
told by her mother, Karen Murray
Ever have one of those days when something much bigger than you is happening and you just know there is a God and that He is not silent? We were living in Germany in December of 1990, and this was one of those days. Oh, it started out as a pretty ordinary morning. We woke to our normal routine, and after my husband left for work, I piled all the kids into the car to drive Rachel to her German 2nd grade class and Brynna to her German Kindergarten and then returned home with Lauren, our two-year-old, and her new baby brother, Evan. I was trying to make the best use of the time I had between trips to and from home and school. Just before noon I loaded the little ones back into the car to go pick up Brynna, drive to Frankfurt Central Chapel on the Army post to pick up a bag of baby boy clothes that someone had left there for me, and get back to Hattersheim before Rachel’s class dismissed at 2:30 pm. No problem!
When we arrived at the chapel, Brynna announced that she wanted to go say hello to our chaplain. Why not? We walked to his office and found that he was not there on Mondays. Oh the disappointment! So I suggested we go meet the Rabbi whose office was at the next door down the hall. Good enough. When we approached the kind man, he seemed genuinely interested in meeting my little ones. He asked for their names. I introduced them. “This is Evan, this is Lauren, and this is Brynna.” While shaking Brynna’s hand he stated, “I have a sister named Bryna.” I told him that was the name I saw in the Baby Name Book, and we loved the meaning, but changed the spelling so that it would be pronounced differently. He asked me, “What did the Name Book say it means?” “Strength, virtue, and honor,” I confidently replied. He responded, “Well, we say it means ‘rejoicing’.”
That’s when I got chills and suddenly knew this was not an ordinary day. In order to explain, I have to take you back a few years. Our first daughter was born in December of 1983. Between her birth and Brynna’s I suffered two miscarriages. The first one was hard enough, with feelings of loss and questioning why it had happened, but the second one brought with it the worry that I might not ever be able to carry another pregnancy. I trusted in God’s sovereignty and providence, but the fear was very real.
In the days following the second miscarriage I happened to be reading for my Bible study. The assigned lesson asked me to look up specific verses about joy. One of those verses seemed to be written especially for me. It was John 16:22 – “ . . . Now is your time of grief, but I will see you again and you will rejoice, and no one will take away your joy.” I felt as if God was giving me a promise that the next time I conceived it would be okay, that I need not fear. Oh how I clung to those words! I just knew it would be all right.
Well, I did conceive three months later and Brynna was born a year after the last miscarriage. We named her Brynna Lynea Murray: Brynna for “strength, virtue, and honor,” Lynea because it’s a family name (and a Norwegian flower) and we liked the sound and the look of the names together. Even though we really liked our choice, deep in my heart I had always wished we had thought of naming her Brynna JOY to connect her name to the Scriptural promise I had received.
Four years later we found ourselves in a foreign country speaking with a Jewish Rabbi who lets me know that we had indeed named our daughter JOY. Of course I had to explain why I got chills when he informed me of the Hebrew meaning, so I told him my story. Then he explained that the same Hebrew word is found in Psalm 126:5, “Those who sow in tears will reap with songs of JOY!” B’rina – ‘with rejoicing’ – what a reason to rejoice!
But that wasn’t the end of my sense of God’s smile. There were two other “God-incidences” that afternoon. The first is that it just happened to be the Rabbi’s birthday that day. As we left his office, his wife was just arriving with a balloon bouquet to help him celebrate! Then after we left we picked up Rachel from school and returned home. I was doing a little straightening up around the house and noticed my turn-over-a-page-a-day ‘family traditions’ calender was behind a few days. I flipped over to the correct date and read: “Hebrew Birthday: Make your child’s birthday special. Write his name in Hebrew on the birthday cake.” I am not joking. I could not believe my eyes. I still to this day ask myself why, in a world so full of major current events — including at that specific time, the Persian Gulf War — why would God be so concerned about expressing His love and faithfulness in things as trivial as birthday balloons and calendar pages?
I guess it’s the same reason that there are hundreds of colorful fish in the ocean that most people never see, or that a lovely wildflower peeks up through the snow on a mountain where only God will ever see it. Or that He is particularly pleased when people do kind things that are seemingly unnoticed. And He knows when a sparrow falls, and how many hairs are on my head, and what I’m going to say before a word is on my tongue. He knew I’d named her JOY for more than four years before He let me in on the glorious secret. And even to this day the promise is true: no one will take away my joy. Thank you, God, for my Brynna Lynea.