Monday, March 31, 2014

A New Name

This is a copy of the talk I gave yesterday in church:

Brother Butters called this morning and said that when he had to find a replacement for someone who was sick today, my name just popped into his head.  A week and a half ago I was reflecting on the many miracles that have happened on our adoption journey and I asked Heavenly Father if I could have a chance to share with my ward family some of these tender mercies.  So here I am and I have no one to blame but myself. 

Joshua at University of Virginia

Our twelve year old son, Joshua, who passed away six years ago, has helped to complete our family. I've had a hard time this morning trying to figure out what I could share in ten minutes, because I’ve kept a log on the computer separate from my personal journal of the tender mercies I have received specific to this journey and it is over 28,000 words long.

 Over four years ago, I was looking at an empty wall in our game room and I thought, “I’ll just save room there for pictures of our future foster children.” But, my train of thought was interrupted with one word, “Natasha.”  I wondered if a Natasha would come into our home and if we would adopt her. Not too long after that, I felt an impression to look up the meaning behind the name, which I did. I knew a Natasha. She was Josh’s age and lived across the street from us until we moved here. She continued to come to our house weekly for piano lessons.  I asked her if she knew the meaning of her name. She didn’t and I shared it with her. 

We got our first call to foster and it wasn’t a Natasha, and it wasn’t one child, as we had expected. Three little sisters needed a family. 

         Meeting Yareli for the first time.
Meeting Liliana & Karina.

When I prayed for direction, the Lord answered in a powerful way that we were to accept this baby and her 2 and 3 year old sisters into our home.  Thus began the roller coaster ride.

Fast forward three and a half years to last November. Our therapist talked to the girls individually about adoption, focusing on preparing them for their last name to change to Cummings. Apparently, she also told them that some adoptive kids choose to change their middle names and even occasionally their first names. When Karina came out from her visit, she told me that she wanted "LaNae" to be her new first name. I was stunned. I responded that I liked Karina and never planned to change her name. I also expressed surprise that she remembered that LaNae was my middle name as it has only come up in conversation maybe two times in the three and a half years she has known me.

Lily followed suit and declared that she wanted a first new name. "Really," I said, "and what name do you want?" She said, "May." I asked, "Where did you get May?" She replied, "From Pokemon." Again, I was stunned. Pokemon? It made me think of Josh, I had a flashback to a big box of Pokemon toys. Josh was ready to donate his well-used collection to another family in our neighborhood. It was me that was having a hard time with that. Josh was Ash for Halloween; his birthday parties included Pokemon ball pinatas and matching cakes. He had collected the cards and played with the toys like they were his best friends. When I carried the box out to the car, I felt like I was letting go of his childhood before I was ready. May. The girl from Pokemon. Did Josh have some influence over this choice? Nathan had put on Pokemon shows for the girls, but only a few times over several years.

I did not encourage the girls' desire to change their first name. I had secretly considered changing Yareli's name because it was difficult for people to say and to remember. For over a year, Yareli often asked me to pretend to be her mom and she would be my daughter, Rosie. I thought about changing her name to Rose. I did remember hearing the voice that said, "Natasha" over four years ago, but I didn't think Yareli would like it if I told her that I was going to change her name to Natasha.

But this is what happened. Liliana was with me in the car as we headed to pick up Yareli at preschool. I was telling Liliana that May seems more like a middle name and that if she didn’t want Liliana as a first name, there were so many beautiful names out there to choose from. She said, “Yeah, like…” and she made up a name out of nonsense syllables. I said, “You just made up that name.”  She said, “Well, what about…” and she threw out another one, and I responded, “Now you’re just being silly.” A minute later she said, “What about Natasha?”  “Where did you get Natasha?” I asked. She said, “I made it up.”  I asked, “Do you know a Natasha at school?”  “No,” she insisted, “I just made up the name in my mind.”  I felt the spirit zing from my head down to my toes. Josh whispered to her. I knew it. I said, “Lily, do you want Natasha as your first name?” She said, “No, I want you to call me May, but Karina or Yareli can have Natasha for their name.” 

Princess Natasha, 4
As of yet, Yareli had not talked about wanting a new name.  After she got in the car, Lily said, “Yareli, I made up a new name and it is beautiful and you can have it if you want. It's Natasha." I held my breath and all she said in answer was, "Will you start the song over and turn up the music?”  End of subject, I thought, but then about three minutes later I heard, “My new name is going to be Natasha.” Yareli spoke firmly. I didn’t answer, I just prayed, “Heavenly Father, if this is what I think it is, all I ask is that you commit her; I’m not going to encourage or discourage this.”  Yareli repeated, “My new name is going to be Natasha.”  I didn’t really call her Natasha until in February when she put her hand on her hip and said, “If you keep calling me Yareli instead of Natasha, then I’m going to call you Mama Deanne instead of Mom.” Lesson learned. Natasha’s preschool teacher said to me one day in February, “I can’t believe how committed Natasha is to her new name. Not only has she told all her friends, but she has been telling their parents to call her Natasha.”  Heavenly Father answered my prayer.

Last month I asked her how she knew Natasha was to be her new name, wondering if she would say she heard a voice in her head like I did a long time ago; she replied in her sweet, matter-of-fact voice, “I didn’t learn it from you; I just know’d it.”

Liliana May & Karina LaNae
We felt like Karina and Liliana have established their identity with their names, having already gone to elementary school and were able to convince them that their new choice of names would become their middle names. I have since looked up the meaning of the name May and learned that it is the pet name for "Margret" (click here to read about her)and "Mary". These are the two grandmas that our boys grew up with and they are both in the spirit world now with Josh.

  Although I was frustrated with having two girls wanting to change their first names when I wasn't feeling good about it, I now see that if the older two sisters hadn't been talking about changing their first names, Natasha probably wouldn't have wanted her new name.

Now the amazing part. From the computer I learned over four years ago that Natasha comes from Natalia which means birthday in reference to Jesus’ birth. Traditionally girls born around Christmas time were named Natasha. I looked back in my journal to see when Natasha chose her new name. It was the Thursday before Christmas. It gets even better. We were told by the judge in September to expect adoption to be nine months to a year out. Amazingly, both biological parents dropped their appeals in January and we were able to adopt on what was supposed to just be a ‘review of appeals’ court date.  Because we have family coming up to watch General Conference with us this Sunday (as is our tradition) we decided to have Enos give each of the girls their Name Blessings on that day.  We came to realize that General Conference is on April 6th, Jesus Birthday, as was revealed by the prophet, Joseph Smith. There was a reason that I was impressed to look up the meaning of “Natasha” over four years ago.  The Lord knew that in time, it would be a witness of the workings of His Hands and of the helping hands of our son, Josh.

Nathan is holding pictures of Cody (serving a mission in MN) and Josh (serving in the Spirit World)

We adopted last week and took a trip both celebrating the adoption and interestingly, the last day of our trip was Josh’s day, the day he entered the spirit world.  We look forward to having the girls sealed to us in the temple on Saturday, April 26th and Josh’s birthday is the next day, Sunday April 27th.  Everything has come together. It has been a difficult road but every time I have prayed for divine help or manifestations for comfort and strength, there have been little miracles, little tender mercies. They testify of God’s love and His goodness.  They testify of the importance of families in God’s plan.  Karina, Liliana, and Natasha will join Cody, Joshua and Nathan in being with Enos and I in the covenant, on the path to exaltation. I pray we will live worthy of such marvelous blessings. And I say these things in the name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Tasha Godfrey
Natasha Godfrey
***After Sacrament meeting, Brother Butters thought I’d find it interesting that the gal I replaced as a speaker today was named Natasha. I told him I didn’t know we had a Natasha in our ward.  He said that she is new and is a single girl in college who is a runner.  Guess who that made me think of….Natasha Godfrey.  It just seemed to be an interesting amen to my conclusion that Josh had chosen that name to honor his beautiful friend, Natasha.