What’s In A Name?

What’s in a name? That’s not just a question posed by a Shakespearean character in a timeless play. I mean, think about it. There’s a reason you don’t see too many kids named Adolph or Napolean, right? 

Names are what define us. They are our identity, and if we’re honest with ourselves, we like hearing others say our name. Dale Carnegie said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” 

So, you can imagine the intricate care and detail I took when it came to naming my three boys. This isn’t new to anyone. Many parents take their time choosing the names they will brand their kids with. 

To me, it wasn’t just about the name itself. I really wanted to make sure the name we chose had meaning attached to it. I wanted my boys to have a name they could live up to; something that defined their character.

A few weeks ago, my oldest decided to look up the meaning of each of our names as we were driving in the car. When you look up the meaning of names on Urban Dictionary, it can be quite comical, and we all had a good laugh. 

Until …

Before I explain what happened, I have to tell you the background of why this joyful event became so serious. When I had my youngest son, Brody, the process of choosing his name was a little different than my first two. My husband came home one day and announced, “I know what I want to name our third boy: Brody.” 

I immediately got my phone out and googled the meaning of his name. I didn’t like what was attached to it. Brody means a muddy ditch. 

I was torn. I liked the name Brody, but I didn’t want to brand this child with something negative before he was even born. 

Names Have Meaning

This may sound absurd to you, but if you look through the Bible, names have meaning. Oftentimes, children were named based on their character, important events or God’s provision. 

In certain cultures, naming someone is a big deal that is not taken lightly. It can set the course, project the future, and in some ways it’s another label attached to a person’s character. 

There is a story in Genesis 35:16-18, where Jacob’s wife, Rachel, is experiencing pain and stress in childbirth. She knows she is going to die and in her final breath she names her second son Benoni. It means son of sadness. 

Immediately, Jacob recognizes the negative label placed on the child, and he changes his name to Benjamin, meaning son of my right hand. 

Jacob understood more than anyone what it was like to live up to your name. Jacob means deceiver, and that’s exactly what he was. Later, God changed his name to Israel, meaning May God Prevail. He wasn’t going to allow his son to be called Ben-Oni, when he knew he was meant to be a Benjamin.

Are Names Important? 

To Brody, his name means everything. And as we were driving that day and laughing at what Urban Dictionary said our names meant, Brody looked up at me and asked, “Mama, what does my name really mean?” 

I’ll be honest, this tested me as a mother. I’ve always told mothers that we need to speak life over our children. We need to speak truth into their souls because this world will speak lies and try and tell them who they are. What will we do in those moments the world defines our children as less than? 

This is where the true test of motherhood begins. It is our jobs as mothers to stand up for them and tell them what we see in them, what God sees in them, when the definitions, labels and the world scribbles their opinions of them on the walls of their hearts.  

I wanted to have the right answer for Brody. I didn’t want to tell him his name means muddy ditch. Like Jacob saw more in Benjamin, I saw more for Brody. He loves God’s word and has the sweetest heart. I just couldn’t do it. I had to change the meaning of his name. 

The question is how? How do we do that when they’re in a world that tries to mold them, label them and give them an identity God has not assigned for them?

It takes a certain kind of talent that only a mother can possess. It’s the determination to stand guard over your child and speak life to a description that tells them they’re nothing more than a dirty ditch.

And as I opened my mouth and drew my breath in to formulate the first word, the Lord spoke to my heart immediately and said, “Tell him about the story in 2 Kings 3:16-19 when Elisha told the kings to prepare the ditches for the blessing I’m about to pour out on my people. Brody is the ditch prepared to carry the water from town to town .. the Living Water … to refresh a people that thirst for the Living God.” 

So, I told Brody what his name meant. I told Brody what God saw in him. I told Brody he is meant for so much in this life because God has great plans for him. 

I wish I could have captured the smile on my little guys face. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him light up like that in his whole nine years of living. He brought his hands to his face in excitement and asked, “So I’m a disciple!?!” 

And just like that, Brody has a name he can be proud of. Google will always say Brody means a  ditch, but now we know God can use ditches to carry a life source to a people who eagerly wait for His provision.

Friend, I want to encourage you today to speak life into those little souls. As mothers, we have the greatest influence over our children’s lives. Did you know that? We have the ability to see what our kids were made for. And when we speak life and truth into them, they will believe it. Then they will live up to it.

Proverbs 18:21 says, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” In this world there will always be words spoken to our children that can cause the death of self-confidence. Words that can cause the death of self-respect and self-esteem. 

But, you are a mom; a life-giver and a life-speaker. You are the one who combats those words with truth and life and your children will believe your words over all others. 

Never underestimate your influence and don’t think for one second your children do not value what you have to say of them. They will always hear what the world says, but they will run to you and see if it’s true. 

My challenge to you this week is to find those opportunities to speak life into your child’s soul. See what God sees in them and know your words and influence will ring in their hearts throughout the years. 

And so my friend, no one can do what you can do for your children. You are the one with the ability to see who they are before they become it. You see what God made them for when others shake their heads and can’t understand them. Speak life and then stand back and watch them rise up and become who you say they are meant to be.

I pray your children rise up and become all God has planned for them!


  • Lucy Palumbo

    This hit home for me. I feel the Lord has been reminding me to do this more often and even spoke to me about this at church this morning. Thank you for the reminder, as evenings are a struggle in this house when we are all tired. Sometimes there is more yelling coming out of my mouth than positive words…Definitely working on this.

    • Shanda Fulbright

      Evening used to be such a difficult time for us too, but nothing like the mornings. The mornings is when I raised my voice and the kids were on edge. I didn’t want them going to school with a crazy mom in their ear. It’s hard sometimes, but that’s why we’re all in this together. We’re all a work in progress, my friend.

  • Gale Simpson

    So powerful words.There is life & death in the power of our tongue.Thank you Shanda for reminding me to speak life!

    • Shanda Fulbright

      We all need this reminder, Gale. I’m so glad the Lord is in our conversations with our kids and helps us speak the life He wants to get into their hearts. Miss you, Galey Gale!

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