I’ve decided to change my name. I’ve been telling people I am Elizabeth Andrasi Deere since around March 18, 2017—my wedding day. Until a couple of weeks ago, though, I was legally still Elizabeth Danielle Andrasi.
It’s a weird thing, changing your name. I thought through everything I could as I made this decision and at the end of the day I wanted my husband’s last name to become part of mine. For me, doing that meant giving up my middle name.
I can blame some of my delay in following through on this decision on bureaucracy. It felt like an avalanche that once I started I wouldn’t be able to stop. Getting married, moving to a new state, discerning my call/vocation, living away from family and friends, figuring out how to actually be married, adjusting to seasons, raising a puppy…etc…felt like enough of an avalanche already.
I finally went to the Social Security Office with a folder that holds all of my important identifying documents. I pulled a number and waited my turn. The wait wasn’t actually that long and the actual name change process was painless. But I felt weird doing it. I verified my identity and I proofread the information the clerk typed. I was on my way. The avalanche had started.
I called my mom and dad and husband as I drove home. It felt like there should be some more fanfare over this than just me alone in my car…perhaps a ceremony with all of my family and friends…maybe it would have felt different had I done this closer to my wedding day…
My hesitation was a little bit logistic, but a lot emotional. It’s a weird thing to let go of the name I’ve had my whole life. It was really important to me that Andrasi still be a visible part of my signature and identity. It is an anchor to my family. It is a reminder that I am still the whole person I already was prior to making our marriage covenant.
My name has been changed once before. In third grade I became Liz. I don’t really remember making that decision, but I think my teacher—who I loved—suggested it and it just sort of stuck. Around the time I went to college things got confusing because I still introduced myself as Elizabeth. This was partially because I am a chronic mumbler—and people never understand me the first time I say Liz—and partially because my dad hates nicknames and always reminds me that he and my mom named me Elizabeth, not Liz. I felt guilty not using my given name so, I would introduce myself as Elizabeth and over time I would let people know they could call me Liz. This carried on all the way through grad school.
Around the time I graduated from Truett Seminary I decided that I just wanted to own the fact that 99% of people in my life call me Liz. But it’s more than just that other people call me Liz, I’ve lived more into that name over the years. So, when it came time to print business cards for my freelance writing and editing I went ahead and claimed Liz Andrasi Deere as my professional identity. I now introduce myself as Liz (and repeat myself when people don’t understand me the first time). Honestly I’m still torn about whether or not I will use Liz or Elizabeth if I ever author a book.
I guess my name has been a source of confusion and angst my whole life. Thinking on it now, it shouldn’t really have been a surprise that changing it legally would be such a daunting and emotional task. My own angst aside, I believe that names are important and my journey to that belief is about more than what I would like to be called. It’s about living into who I am and making choices that define my life story.
In scripture names are important, too. Being given the privilege of naming someone or something communicates a creative power. We see this as God speaks the world into existence and as Adam names the animals. Further on in scripture John the Baptist’s and Jesus’ parents are each instructed by God what to name their sons. Abram and Sarai become Abraham and Sarah. Saul becomes Paul. There are many examples of the importance of names in scripture. One I’ve been thinking about as I’ve reflected on my own name these past weeks, is Hagar. Particularly, the part of her story that we find in Genesis 16.
On Friday I am going to do my first post of concentrated scripture exploration. I invite you to check back then—or go ahead and subscribe to my blog to get every new post straight to your email inbox.